Briscoes cautiously optimistic on profit

22:47, Nov 06 2012

Last year's Rugby World Cup was a hard act to follow, but retailer Briscoe Group says it is pleased with its sales results for the year to date.

The operator of the Briscoes, Rebel Sport and Living and Giving chains has reported a 3.5 per cent increase in unaudited sales for the nine months to October 31 of $302.2 million, up from $292.1m in the same period last year.

The retailer said homewares performed best with a 5.1 per cent increase in sales during the period, as opposed to sporting goods sales which increased just 0.32 per cent.

On a same store basis the group's sales for the nine months were 3.5 per cent up on last year. Homewares increased 5.6 per cent but sporting goods sales decreased by 0.27 per cent.

In comparison with the third quarter of 2011, sales of sports goods decreased by 9 per cent from the record $35.2 million achieved by Rebel Sport during the Rugby World Cup.

However overall group sales for the three months to October were just slightly below the record $98m reported at the same time last year at 0.46 per cent down.

“It was always going to be a huge challenge for the group to go close to matching last year's third quarter performance, especially for the sporting goods segment, given the sensational quarter we experienced last year as a result of the Rugby World Cup," group managing director Rod Duke said.

“In the third quarter of last year the sporting goods segment delivered a staggering same store sales increase of 24.64 per cent.

"To be behind this by only 8.78 per cent for this current quarter and within less than half of one percent of last year's total group sales for the quarter, is an extraordinarily good result."

As the company began the crucial final quarter it was cautiously optimistic in its outlook, he said. It had been encouraged by its performance to date and was confident full year tax paid profit would exceed last year's result of $27.5m.

"The extent to which we exceed this will of course be heavily influenced by the strength or otherwise of the retail market over the Christmas period,” Duke said.

Today marks 150 years since homewares retailer Briscoes began trading in New Zealand.

With 41 stores across New Zealand now, the products it has stocked in its history have represented the changing needs of kiwi consumers since the early days of colonisation.

Briscoes’ history dates back to 1781 when it was founded by William Briscoe in the English town of Wolverhampton selling irongomery products. Customers lacking cash paid bills with chocolate, rum and on one occasion a horse.

It briefly traded in slaves when in 1794, a member of the founding family opened a branch at Jamaica to sell imported English hardware to local merchants while trading rum, sugar and ginger produced in Jamaica back to Britain. It once traded 25 slaves for 125 pounds.

It entered the Australian market in 1860 and soon advertised in Wellington and Otago newspapers that it would supply irongomery and hardware across the Tasman, selling brooms and mud scrapers to New Zealand customers in the gold industry.

It began trading in Wellington in 1893, the same year women gained the vote, taking up three sections of reclaimed land near the harbour with a three storey building that had a 13.7m frontage on Victoria Street.

It sold items for coach builders, blacksmiths, engineers and saddlers such as nails, gunpowder, harvesting equipment, furnace boilers and kerosene lamps. Shipments were arriving daily by the mid 1870s from England to supply materials for building New Zealand’s  infrastructure through contracts with central government.

For consumers, it sold Pears soap and was New Zealand’s largest supplier of tea before it sold the division in 1902. It supplied the Wunderlich pressed-metal ceiling tiles used in the Wellington Town Hall and Dunedin Railway Station.

These days the chain, which Rod Duke has managed since 1988, sells homewares such as linen, cooking equipment, picture frames, lamps and hairdryers. Its history has been recorded in a book by business historian Dr Ian Hunter called Briscoes: 150 Years In New Zealand.

“Briscoes brought the best manufactured goods of the world to our shores and became the first, international mercantile business to establish a presence in New Zealand,” Dr Hunter said.

Now part of a retail group that includes Rebel Sport and Living and Giving chains, Briscoes reported a 3.5 per cent increase in unaudited sales for the nine months to October 31 of $302.2 million.