Albemarle steps up store openings as revenues grow

The pawnbroker Albemarle and Bond is to step up its programme of store openings by two-thirds over the next year, as cash-strapped consumers flock to its shops.

The pawnbroker said its overall performance remained "strong", with its core pledge book up by 10 per cent, although retail demand for gold jewellery has continued to slow. Albemarle is on track to open 15 stores under its Cheque and Pawn and its Herbert Brown brands for the year to 30 June, but it has 25 new shops in the pipeline for the next year.

In a trading update yesterday ahead of an investor site visit, the company said the new shops are "trading in line with expectations" and should, on average, break even within the first year. After a pilot of nine "pop-up shops", Albemarle is to open a further six "gold buying" outlets before the end of next month.

The pawnbroker said of the sluggish retail demand for gold jewellery: "It has been more attractive to choose to scrap second-hand items earlier and take advantage of current high gold prices, as opposed to offering them for sale via our retail channels." The company has made several appointments, including Mike Harrison as head of property and Kevin Allfrey as head of ecommerce.

For the six months to 31 December, Albemarle posted a 75 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to £10.8m.