Lew’s Premier sees profits double despite COVID store closures

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Apparel retailing giant Premier Investments has seen its profits double over the past 12 months despite the pandemic, but had warned of falling sales in the new year as Australia’s lockdowns continue to take their toll.

The business, which is chaired and majority-owned by billionaire retailer Solomon Lew, told investors on Thursday its net profit had boomed 97 per cent to $271.8 million, despite the business saying it lost a collective 50,000 trading days during the financial year due to store closures.

Premier Investments chairman Solomon Lew and Premier Retail CEO Richard Murray.Credit:Eamon Gallagher

Reaching this result despite the COVID disruption was largely thanks to Premier’s online sales, which hit a new record of $300 million for the year, making up over 20 per cent of the business’ $1.4 billion in total sales.

Premier’s buoyant year means the company was able to declare a final dividend of 46 cents per share, up 10 cents on last year, payable on January 27.

All of its divisions, which include brands such as Just Jeans, Peter Alexander, Jay Jays and Dotti, posted strong performances for the year. Even stationery retailer Smiggle, which has struggled in recent years, reported a 25 per cent increase in sales.

However, like many retailers, Premier is weathering the effects of local lockdowns in Melbourne and Sydney, with trade across the business falling 9.5 per cent in the seven weeks since the beginning of September.

This sales fallout has been partially mitigated by online sales, the company said, and some stores were progressively starting to reopen.

“Today’s announcement is a testament to the skills and dedication of our entire global team. To have delivered these record results in a very difficult and volatile environment is a truly outstanding achievement,” Mr Lew said.

“Premier remains optimistic about the all-important second quarter of FY22 [the Christmas quarter] as the vaccine rollout progresses and the economy re-opens.”

“Premier Retail has again made the strategic decision to invest in inventory, and we have the appropriate supply chains to support this decision and ensure we are in stock of wanted product,” he said.

Premier received over $70 million in JobKeeper funds through this financial year and the one prior, however, it repaid $15.6 million of the funds back to the government earlier this year, with the company saying no “net” JobKeeper benefit was recognised in this result.

More to come.

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