THE CHIEF executive of rent-to-own retailer BrightHouse compared each of his stores to a vibrant medieval village green as he announced a rise in revenue and earnings today.
Leo McKee said the high street remained “fertile territory” for the right business model and that BrightHouse was at the centre of every town and city it was in.
“I liken the BrightHouse store in the centre of the high street to a medieval village green. It is very vibrant,” he said.
He added: “I firmly believe that if you have the right business moel and execute it well then the high street is fertile territory.”
BrightHouse posted a 12.2 per cent rise in revenue to £333.3m for the year to March 31, 2014 in spite of a challenging retail environment. Like-for-like revenue, for stores open at least two years, rose by 6.9 per cent.
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) was up 10.1 per cent to £52.6m.
BrightHouse opened seven stores in the year taking the store portfolio to 286. It has 24 stores in Yorkshire but didn’t open any new stores in the region during the year.
However, the retailer expanded its national presence in Yorkshire with the establishment of a call centre in Sheffield.
The call centre, which is operated by outsourcing company Serco, previously dealt with a limited number debit card payments with a team of 12 staff.
Since January 2014, the centre has grown to a staff of 70, rising to 90 by the end of July and 140 by next March, and has expanded its operations to deal with missing payments and collections.
Mr McKee said BrightHouse has invested in ecommerce and said its strategy is to follow the John Lewis model with a “clicks and mortar” offering.
“In what have been difficult conditions for UK retailers, BrightHouse has continued to prosper thanks to our differentiated and customer-focused offer,” he said. “We are proud to help our customers, who are primarily from lower income groups, furnish their homes, and this focus is borne out by the fact that some 40 per cent of our new customers come from referrals from existing customers.”
“We have given our customers greater choice in how they interact with us by investing in our online capability and by establishing a national call centre in Sheffield.
“That said, we believe in the UK high street. Our stores are at the heart of their communities, with dedicated teams who themselves are from those communities, and we plan to accelerate our store opening programme, opening a dozen this year.”
Mr McKee said new openings would be focused in the South and Scotland.
“We won’t open any more stores in Yorkshire in the short term because we feel we are well covered here,” he said.
“We are focused on opening stores in the South, within the M25, and also the north of Scotland.”
In the last year, BrightHouse has also taken steps to simplify its offering with the launch of a single price agreement.
“This move reflected our customers’ desire for a simpler offer, providing a comprehensive service proposition including delivery and installation, unlimited repairs, like-for-like replacements and loan products when required,” said Mr McKee.
“We are committed to responsible lending and welcome the arrival of our new regulator, the FCA. We shall continue to champion fairness and excellence in customer service.”
Meanwhile, the company has appointed a new chairman following the departure of Richard Pym. Henry Staunton joins BrightHouse as non-executive chairman tomorrow. Mr Staunton is also chairman of WH Smith and holds non-executive directorships at Standard Bank, Capital and Counties, and Merchants Trust.