Albemarle & Bond planning a move into central London as pawn gets more popular

It's unlikely to be seen as a good sign for the economy, but the pawnbroker Albemarle & Bond is on the up.

Its chief executive Barry Stevenson says the 215 stores could be expanded up to 300, with 25 to open this year alone.

He is also planning to move into central London, an area not thought in need of pawnbroking services until now. In the six months to the end of December, its profits rose 12 per cent to £12.1m and the company's pledge book was up 7 per cent to £38.3m. Business is good enough to lift the interim dividend 9 per cent to 3p.

While pawnbroking has a somewhat Dickensian image that may be in keeping with austerity Britain, Mr Stevenson reckons this reputation is outdated and unfair. With banks either shunning short-term loans or else charging huge fees for unauthorised overdrafts, A&B is filling a clear need in the economy, he argues.

Most loans go to individuals but more small businesses are also turning to pawn to fill short-term cashflow problems.

Albemarle & Bond has 40 "pop-up" gold buying stores which are doing well as people cash in jewellery. Its Payday Anyway, a debit card-based loan deal the company established in July 2011, is also proving popular.

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