Dunelm new website tests bring confidence following 'strong year'

Homeware and furniture retailer Dunelm has reported what it described as a “strong year” of trading, with sales and profit up significantly compared to the 2017-18 financial period.

Total like-for-like sales jumped by 10.7% year-on-year, with store sales up by 7.7% and Dunelm.com trading growing by 35.1%. Profit before tax was £125.9 million – up 23.4% on last year’s figure – based on total sales of £1.1 billion in the 52 weeks to 29 June.

Growth in marketing – notably on TV – has helped improve brand awareness, while ongoing development of the retailer’s digital capabilities are being ramped up as the business moves into its new financial year.

A key focus of recent months has been on launching a new digital platform based on the technology provided by Worldstores, an online business Dunelm acquired and then absorbed into its wider operations in 2018. The retailer is live on some of the technologies and launched a beta version of the site to some of its customers this summer, but the full launch will occur in the coming months.

Nick Wilkinson, Dunelm’s CEO, who has now been in the role for one year, said in today’s final results statement: “This is a major milestone following two years in which we have transformed our technology capability, bringing in more engineering talent and developing new ways of working, to create a scalable suite of retail services founded on the latest cloud-native technology.

“The transition to the new platform brings sales risks, but our tests to date give us confidence that users will experience material improvements to site speed, search effectiveness and checkout functionality.”

Dunelm expects its customers to benefit from features such as the ability to transact a mixed basket of items with different fulfilment options, and the ability to pay for store-stocked items for collection.

Wilkinson claimed the company’s development roadmap once the new website goes live is “ambitious” as – in its own words – the retailer looks to “catch up” with convenient services and digital options offered by other organisations in the industry.

“We view digital development as driving store sales as much as our online sales and will continue to invest in developing our offer across all channels,” he added.

Dunelm said it has already focused on online ranging and trading across its product categories by increasing the number of ‘customer hosts’ in its stores to 1,200. These members of staff use tablet devices to help customers shop extended ranges in store.