Ramsdens is a diversified financial services provider and retailer which was enjoying a strong growth period to March 2020, prior to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Group has not been immune from the impact of the pandemic which has touched all aspects of society and adversely impacted the global economy. The Group has shown its resiliency in the last 21 months during the pandemic, reporting profitable trading, retaining a strong balance sheet and good cash position.
The Group operates in the four core business segments of;
- foreign currency exchange, primarily money for holidaying customers supplemented by travel card sales and international bank to bank transfers
- pawnbroking loans, which are short term loans up to 6 months in duration secured on items of jewellery or watches
- precious metals buying, which is the buying of gold and silver from customers and selling the non-retail pieces to a bullion dealer, and;
- retailing of luxury pre owned watches and pre owned and new jewellery
The business is headquartered in Middlesbrough. The first Ramsdens store opened in Stockton-on-Tees in May 1987 and as at 31 December 2021 there are 155 Ramsdens stores including 3 franchised stores supported by a growing online presence.
In a market where trust is critical, Ramsdens is an increasingly recognised brand in each of our four key business segments and our continued investment in our people, marketing, IT systems, store appearance and store location remain key factors in supporting the Group's growth.
While the Group remains vigilant to the risk of, and speed of, potential new social and travel restrictions being imposed, as we have seen with the recent development of the Omicron coronavirus variant, we look forward with optimism for FY22.
The Group has the benefit of diversified income streams and a strong financial base. This gives the Board confidence that we are well-placed to continue to navigate this ongoing transitional period and to deliver on our growth strategy for the long-term benefit of all our stakeholders.
We have a consistent and established strategy for the long-term development and growth of Ramsdens. Underpinned by the ongoing development of our people and brand, I am confident that the Group’s previously proven strategy remains relevant and appropriate in the long-term.
We continue to concentrate on:
- Improving the performance of our existing store estate
- Expanding the Ramsdens branch footprint in the UK
- Developing our online proposition
- Appraising market opportunities presented by operating in a challenging market
- Focusing on sustainability through our ESG policy
Improving the performance of the existing store estate
Our strategic focus is on attracting more customers, cross-selling our diversified services and driving higher spend from those acquired customers. By doing this and controlling costs, the profit contribution will increase.
The growth in the four key income segments across the core estate during the first 12 months of FP20 demonstrated the effectiveness of this strategy. In the last year, our previous investments in our retail offering instore and online have continued to produce great results.
We continue to develop our staff with ongoing training and to review every store’s location against its performance and potential within that town. Where there is an opportunity to grow and improve our return on capital, we will relocate a store.
In addition, we aim to improve the performance of our key income streams:
by having competitive exchange rates to attract new, and retain existing, customers. Margins will continue to be managed closely with due regard to local circumstances.
where appropriate we will relocate to higher footfall locations to improve the convenience we offer to our existing customers and to attract new customers who may have been unaware of our secondary location within a town.
by improving the contact frequency we have with our foreign currency customers.
by developing a market-leading multi-currency travel card to capture more of the customer’s holiday spend while abroad.
by doing what we believe is the right thing for our customers over the long term. This has included proactively supporting our customers through the challenges that COVID-19 has brought by waiving interest, reducing interest rates, and offering long-term repayment plans.
where customers default, we will continue to obtain the best price possible for them by selling by private treaty and not using an auction process which we believe disadvantages customers.
we will continue to have prudent lending policies but look at developing opportunities to lend more when the customer’s borrowing history suggests greater capacity to repay and where the pledged assets are more desirable and readily saleable. Our improvement in our retail jewellery operations gives the Group confidence that it is able to lend more on higher value jewellery items.
we will continue to build upon the trust and high repeat customer volumes earned by giving a great service and grow the customer base through word-of-mouth recommendation.
our investments in stock quality, choice of stock, and stock levels has assisted with the improved results delivered during the year. Further improvements can be made as we shift to greater use of planogram displays and a structured replenishment system. This applies to both jewellery and premium watches.
we are continuing to work on the display of our products to create more customer appeal as well as continuing to invest in our retail website (see below) which also acts as a stock catalogue for our branches to facilitate further in store sales.
where appropriate we will relocate to higher footfall locations to improve the jewellery offer, with larger window display areas, often at similar rents to current locations.
Purchase of precious metals
by growing the awareness amongst our existing customer base, primarily foreign currency customers who are unaware of the service or the value held in damaged or simply unwanted or unworn jewellery.
Expanding the branch footprint in the UK
The Group has a successful branch-based model. With a diversified income stream, stores generate a good return on capital while leveraging off the head office cost base in smaller locations. We have successfully achieved this in towns such as Ebbw Vale and Dalkeith. Therefore, there is a significant opportunity to grow the store estate in larger, and smaller, towns as well as cities, and into new regions.
As at 30 September 2021, we had 154 stores including three franchised stores.
During the year, we opened two stores; in Manchester (previously a pawnbrokers), and Middlesbrough (previously a currency kiosk). Just after the year end, we opened in Chatham, the first Ramsdens store in the South East.
We have targeted eight locations to open in FY22. These comprise a mix of locations in Scotland, Yorkshire and the North West, which are established regions for the Ramsdens brand, as well as expanding in the South East.
Developing our online proposition
Jewellery retail website - www.ramsdensjewellery.co.uk
We have achieved outstanding progress in the last 12 months, with the online sales of jewellery items more than doubling to almost £3.3m. This performance excludes jewellery sales in branches which used the in-store digital facility to access the website as a catalogue of stock.
As you can see from the chart below online retail jewellery sales have grown substantially over the last four years.
While the online performance in FY21 may have been aided by the COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding growth in online retail across consumer industries, the Group’s performance has remained very encouraging since the re-opening of non-essential retail stores, demonstrating the strong underlying customer demand for Ramsdens’ online services.
This momentum has been achieved by:
refreshing the website in October 2020 to optimise search functionality at the front and back end of the website,
continued investment in search engine optimisation, introduction of various payment options, use of AI to push product options to customers, and successful pay per click advertising,
increasing the quantity of stock online significantly and investing in improvements to product merchandising and descriptions.
Lessons have been learned as we have progressed over the year and we will use this knowledge to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our initiatives in the future.
As we expand the store estate further, including into the South East, an improved, more visible website will assist with brand recognition and, at the same time, an enlarged store estate should assist online sales.
Foreign Currency website - www.ramsdensforcash.co.uk
It is not a surprise that the website statistics for our online click and collect foreign currency volumes have been hit by the pandemic and the travel restrictions throughout FY21. Click and Collect volumes were down 85% and represent 9% (8% in FP20) of our total foreign currency sales volumes.
In the coming year we plan to refresh the Group’s currency website and launch a new multi-currency card, which will also be available via an app.
Appraising opportunities presented by operating in a challenging market
Our estimate of the number of pawnbroking outlets in the UK remains steady at approximately 870 outlets operated by circa 130 pawnbroking businesses. Collectively over the last year pawnbrokers have seen their loan books reduce generating cash reserves to trade as a result of the loan repayments.
The Group’s expansion strategy into the South East is aimed at creating a nucleus of Ramsdens stores that build brand recognition and, as opportunities arise, acquiring pawnbroking outlets. The South East has the highest concentration of pawnbroking outlets in the UK and presents a compelling expansion opportunity for the Group.
The Group purchased a single store in Manchester from a London- based pawnbroker, Hopkins and Jones. The active in-date loan book was circa £0.15m when it was acquired in August 2021.
The retail landscape has been challenging for a number of years but the full impact of the pandemic is possibly not yet known. Some retailers have struggled to pay rents and other competitors in the retail jewellery or foreign currency market have closed stores. We continue to hope for a full reform of the non-domestic rates system which may encourage more retailers to open stores and recreate vibrant high streets. Without reform, we fear some towns and high streets may suffer further decline with more empty shops. Our property portfolio has been purposefully managed to be as flexible as possible to provide a defensive quality in case any of our stores become isolated and performance deteriorates.
In terms of looking at new towns and relocations, investments will only be made in new stores after significant research of footfall and adjacent retailer quality. The demise of certain retailers does however present an opportunity to obtain reductions in rental levels in certain towns while not compromising on location.
Focusing on sustainability through our Environmental Social Governance (ESG) policy
To read more about our ESG policy, please click here.