Card Factory returns to sales growth amid ‘challenging’ trading

Karen Hubbard Picture Tony Johnson.
Karen Hubbard Picture Tony Johnson.
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Retailer Card Factory has returned to sales growth ahead of the peak festive season as it overcame “challenging” high street trading.

The greetings card and gifts chain - which has 963 stores across the UK - said like-for-like store sales edged 0.1% higher in its third quarter to October 31, while it saw a 47.3% surge in website sales.

The impressive online performance helped overall like-for-like sales rise 0.4% over its third quarter, while trading is now flat in its year-to-date.

Chief executive Karen Hubbard said the group enters the key Christmas period with “confidence”.

She said: “Despite the continuation of challenging high street trading conditions, we delivered positive like-for-like sales in the third quarter, marking a slight improvement on the like-for-like performance seen in the first half.

“This reflected further growth in average spend and improved performance of our redesigned Everyday ranges, in addition to our growing Card Factory online business.”

But she said cost savings remained a top priority as the group looks to offset rising wage bills from the national living wage, as well as rising buying costs from the weak pound.

Card Factory had warned over profits in August off the back of extreme weather and weak consumer demand.

The group expects full-year underlying earnings to come in between £89 million and £91 million, compared with previous forecasts of £93.5 million.

But it has already said the full-year performance depends on the performance in the all-important festive quarter.

Card Factory opened 16 stores in the third quarter on a net basis and said it remains on track to open around 50 over the full financial year.

Adam Tomlinson, an analyst at Liberum, said: “We take encouragement from the pick-up in store like-for-likes back into positive territory in the third quarter, which is a good result in the current environment and reflects the impact of self-help to improve ranges.

“A solid Christmas will still be important to hit full-year numbers.”