THE cost of the pandemic – in money and jobs – became increasingly clear as 2021 went on.
As a string of companies revealed their profits or losses for the first year of living with Covid-19, we saw how some of Dorset’s best-known businesses had fared.
Retailers had to contend with prolonged store closures because of lockdowns – and those who had a strong presence online were in a better position to absorb the hit.
Lush, Poole’s global cosmetics band, made a substantial loss in its financial year ending June 2020 and lost 215 staff in a redundancy programme, including 100 in Poole.
But founder chief executive Mark Constantine said earlier this year that the business had returned to profit and avoided mass job losses.
Lush’s digital sales this financial year are expected to top £100million, more than double their level before the pandemic.
Mr Constantine the Daily Echo he had suffered a “bleak week” at the start of the pandemic when “I just couldn’t see how we were going to come through”.
But he added: “What’s I suppose impressive is the fact that we managed to get through to the other end.”
The company’s pre-tax loss for £45.2million in 2019-20 included £37.9m in accounting adjustments to write down the value of assets and the leases of anchor stores.
Christchurch-headquartered arts and crafts retailer Hobbycraft also saw a big shift to online sales. While stores were closed for almost six months, online sales grew by more than 150 per cent as people turned to creative hobbies such as sewing, macrame and wreath-making and bought art materials for their home-schooled children.
Overall revenue fell 8.6 per cent to £176.9m.
Chief executive Dominic Jordan, speaking in the summer, said the results were “robust” after “one of the most challenging years the retail industry has ever known”.
- With many families switching from traditional supermarket visits to online shopping, sales of children’s snacks fell. But Bournemouth-based Organix, the leading seller of healthier snack foods to youngsters, still saw growth.
Accounts published this year for 2020 show turnover up 1.7 per cent to £31.6m and profit after tax up from £2.15m to £2.39m.
Since then, the company – owned by the international Hero Group – has launched a campaign, fronted by JB Gill of the boyband JLS, to get children eating more fruit and vegetables.
Managing director Mark Golder told the Daily Echo in June “Overall, the sales of baby and toddler snacks have gone down during this last year and we think that’s to do with the fact that families have all been much more at home.”
He added: “In spite of that, Organix has managed to deliver growth last year which we’re really pleased about and the other thing we’ve noticed is a big change in where or how people are buying our products.”
Customers were increasingly buying from the company’s website, or from online platforms such as Ocado, rather than in supermarkets.
Hospitality venues were forced to close for much of the pandemic’s first year – and the chairman of Dorset brewery Hall & Woodhouse said it would add Covid-19 to the “list of major upheavals that it has had to weather over its 244-year history”.
The company made a pre-tax loss of £10.5m on ongoing operations in the year to January 31, 2021.
Lockdowns hit the business hard, but they also boosted demand for the company’s Badger bottled beers and Rio soft drinks.
Chairman Anthony Woodhouse said the business was strong because it had been built over many generations with limited borrowing.
The company disposed of some pubs which it said did not fit with its strategy, but has added 10 to its estate this year.
- Amigo Loans, which employs around 200 people in Bournemouth, has spent the pandemic period fighting for its survival.
The company lends at 49.9 per cent annual percentage rate (APR) to people with poor credit history who can find a friend or relative to guarantee the repayments.
But increased attention from regulators helped spawn a flood of mis-selling complaints.
The pandemic led to a pause in lending to all borrowers except key workers in March 2020 and a total freeze on new lending in December.
The company’s new management has said it can only avoid insolvency if it wins approval for a bid to cap the compensation payouts to complainants. Its first bid to do so was rejected by the High Court in May.
Amigo says it will be able to allocate more money than previously thought to compensating customers, because the Covid crisis proved less severe for household budgets than expected. It has also had another year to collect repayments on loans since it stopped lending.
The company made a statutory profit before tax of £2.1million in the six months to September 30 this year, after a loss of £62.6m in the same period last year.
With lockdowns and working from home policies keeping many more people indoors, the DIY industry saw a huge rise in interest.
Among the beneficiaries was Wimborne-based luxury paint and wallpaper maker Farrow & Ball, which reported record figures and a quadrupling of online sales.
Revenue grew 35 per cent to £117m in the year ending March 2021, with UK sales up 44 per cent.
Operating profit more than trebled to £26.m, although interest costs from the firm’s financial structure led it to an overall loss after tax of £16.3m.
Online sales were up 250 per cent and now represent a quarter of the firm’s revenue. It has 2.5m followers on social media, more than any other brand in its sector, including 1.1m on Instagram.
The company had an average monthly headcount of 648 last year.
Chief executive Anthony Davey said: “When Covid hit and many consumers went online, we were uniquely well-placed to meet their needs. We quadrupled our e-commerce business.”
The company was owned by the private equity firm Ares Management Corporation but was bought this year by the Danish paint maker Hempel.
Luxury boat builder Sunseeker International is “back stronger than ever” despite a net loss of £23.7m in 2020, its bosses said.
The company proposed 460 redundancies – around a fifth of its workforce – in the early months of the pandemic and shut down production for three months amid the first lockdown.
But it received a total of £82.5m from its Chinese owner Dalian Wanda, in the form of capital investment and a £25m loan, to support its plan for new models. And as of summer 2021, it had an order book worth more than £400m.
Sunseeker’s sales director, Sean Robertson, told the Daily Echo in the summer: “There’s extreme confidence in the brand and the product.”