10 Mar 2014

Turnaround working, says Warehouse

11:20 am on 10 March 2014

The Warehouse says that two years into reshaping the business the process is already bearing fruit, even though bottom-line first-half profit fell 45 percent.

Net profit fell to nearly $58.7 million for the six months to the end of January, a drop of 44.8 percent on the $106.3 million profit made in the same six months a year earlier.

Underlying profit was down a smaller 12.5 percent while sales rose 29.5 percent, reflecting a greater contribution from various purchases including the Noel Leeming and Bond & Bond brands.

The flagship business, the Red Sheds, lifted sales more than 6 percent, the strongest growth in 10 years.

Chief executive Mark Powell says there's been a lot of work behind this improvement; he says the company announced an investment programme of $120 million two and a half years ago and it has also invested in people both in terms of the number of staff and paying them appropriately.

Mr Powell says the Warehouse has also worked on its products and its ranges.

The discount retailer is adding another prong to its turnaround strategy by starting up its own financial services business, instead of using third-party providers. It's raising $115 million to finance the new venture, which it expects to make losses until beginning to contribute to profit from 2016.

The Warehouse is also making significant changes to its dividend policy by introducing a dividend reinvestment plan and lowering its payout ratio from 90 percent of adjusted profit to between 75 and 85 percent.

Mr Powell says paying out 90 percent is a signal a company doesn't have good growth prospects, and the Warehouse wants investors to regard it as both a strong dividend payer and a growth company.