Dragon’s fired up by his stable’s strong showing

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STATIONERY chain Ryman became the latest retailer to toast a robust Christmas trading performance as it announced like-for-like sales up 1.7 per cent over the festive period.

The 237-store group is owned by Dragons’ Den entrepreneur Theo Paphitis, who also hailed improvments in revenues for his Robert Dyas general store business and the Boux Avenue lingerie brand.

Robert Dyas, which has 96 outlets, grew sales by 5.2 per cent over the period from November 1 to December 24.

Boux Avenue – launched by Mr Paphitis in April 2011 and with 21 UK stores and four overseas – increased revenues by 20.2 per cent

The group said customers responded well to the product offers from all three brands, avoiding the need for discounting and resulting in improved profit margins.

Mr Paphitis said: “Growth was delivered in all three businesses both online and in store.

“This shows that despite the challenges faced by many high streets across the UK, customers continue to respond to the right product, service experience and a convenience offering, where relevant.”

Annual figures for the year ended in March 2013 were also disclosed, showing Ryman’s earnings held largely flat at £7.1m against £7m a year earlier after increasing like-for-like sales by 0.9 per cent.

Robert Dyas – bought by Mr Paphitis in July 2012 – saw like-for-like sales rise 11.2 per cent, with operating profits leaping to £4.9m from £1.1m.

Boux Avenue posted a 60 per cent hike in like-for-like sales, with annual turnover of £18.2m and an operating loss of £7.1m in line with expectations for the fledgling business.

The group has recently signed a franchise agreement for the brand to open 29 stores across the Middle East in the next five years while there are also plans to open another 31 sites in two additional markets.

The Middle East is regarded as a growth market by many UK-based retailers.

Rymans can trace its roots back to Henry J Ryman, the founder of Ryman, who opened his first store in London at Great Portland Street in 1893.

Mr Ryman opened the first self-service stationery shop with sales in the first week of £50.

Today, Rymans has shops around the country, including branches in Leeds, Castleford, Harrogate, Huddersfield. York, Doncaster and Sheffield.