Hampers keep Fortnum happy

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The Independent Online
EXPORT sales at Fortnum & Mason have saved the luxury department store in London's Piccadilly, known as 'the Queen's grocer', from the dismal fate of the recession-hit high street.

Pre-tax profits were pounds 2.46m in the 76 weeks under review at Fortnum, which has changed its year-end to July from January. In the year ended January 1991, profits were pounds 2.06m.

Domestic sales in the 24 weeks to July 1992 rose by 6 per cent over the comparable period although this was distorted by poor trading during the Gulf war. Garry Weston, chairman, said the underlying trend showed a drop of between 1.5 per cent and 2 per cent.

But the popularity of its traditional products such as tea and hampers, in Japan, the Pacific Basin and France, buoyed exports.

Gerald Hamilton, managing director, said the hampers were internationally acclaimed. 'Their contents, which exclude ham and spirits, are carefully picked so as not to offend the sensitive customs of other people.'

Exports of hampers boosted overall sales which, at pounds 33.3m, exceeded those of the comparable 76-week period by pounds 900,000.

The company has net cash of pounds 7.25m, against pounds 5.3m last time, after cutting costs and stock levels - 70 temporary and part-time jobs have been lost.

'In the current trading circumstances we are keen to keep ourselves cushioned,' Mr Hamilton said. Capital expenditure included renovation of a store restaurant and the menswear department.

Earnings per share were up by 23 per cent to 383p. The third interim dividend of 12p gives a final dividend of 108p against 90p last time.