A “sub-prime” community retailer is defying the high street meltdown with plans to open ten new stores in Birmingham over five years.
Credit-based home appliances and furniture specialist BrightHouse says business is growing as mainstream competitors see sales slump.
It is also seeing its traditional low-income customer base augmented by better-off shoppers looking to cut expenses.
The expansion, which will generate 100 jobs, will bring the Watford company’s West Midlands outlets to 20.
BrightHouse opened its first shop in Chelmsley Wood in 1994 and has ten outlets in the area, also home to one of its eight regional distribution centres.
Outlets include Hill Street in Birmingham, Erdington, Chemsley Wood, Acocks Green, Kings Heath, Northfield, West Bromwich, Redditch and Dudley.
Potential sites include Bromsgrove, Sutton Coldfield, Halesowen, Stourbridge, Handsworth, Harborne, Wednesbury, Shard End, Stetchford and Longbridge.
BrightHouse chief executive Leo McKee, a former Woolworth’s boss, said the strategy of selling quality branded household products to customers who would probably fail other retailers’ credit criteria and who typically pay for goods in cash weekly, was successful in the downturn.
First-half figures due to be published by the privately-owned company today will show growth in like-for-like sales of 13.6 per cent while 20 new stores were opened.
Results for the year to March 31 showed turnover was 12.7 per cent up at £145.9 million and 11.7 per cent ahead on a same store basis. Pre-tax profit was 60 per cent ahead at £20.1 million.
Underlying operating cashflow rose 10.2 per cent to £10.8 million while bad debt – accounts in arrears – fell 5.74 per cent from 6.54 per cent the previous year.
Mr McKee said the company’s push to expand in the West Midlands was part of a national effort to grow its portfolio of 174 stores, which support 1,900 jobs.
“Birmingham is an important region and we are delighted to be doubling our store network,” Mr McKee said.
“These store openings are part of the group’s expansion strategy to significantly increase store portfolio across the UK over three years. The BrightHouse business model is resilient to consumer spending cycles and we are have clear visibility of earnings going forward.
“We are confident the macro-economic environment will not impact our expansion plans as we strengthen UK foothold.”
BrightHouse has come under fire from debt and family organisations who claim its low-income customers can pay up to 150 per cent for white and brown goods.
The company, owned by private equity group Vision Capital, counters the criticism by saying its community business model means it understands its credit customers who have no other means of financing their purchases.
Its staff are paid a salary and do not have to depend on commission or other sales incentives to induce customers to buy goods they cannot afford.