The Works eyes expansion after another year of sales growth

Discount retailer The Works has boosted sales for the fourth consecutive year since Leeds-headquartered turnaround investor Endless took over the company.

It will now focus on a "controlled expansion" of its 305-store portfolio. The business targeted its best-ever Christmas, achieving 12 per cent like-for-like sales growth in December, which pushed turnover past £120m.

"The Works is continuing to perform positively and our passion for delivering amazing value for the whole family is paying off despite the very tough trading environment," chief executive Kevin Keaney told Insider.

"This year we are making a significant investment in our e-commerce business to accelerate its growth and we continue the controlled expansion of our store estate. I am proud to lead such a great business and I am very positive about our exciting multi channel future."

In a year which has been tough for the retail industry, with many high-profile chains collapsing, The Works filed like-for-like sales growth of 1.9 per cent.

Revenue at the retailer, which sells discount books, gifts, stationery, toys and arts materials, grew by 6.2 per cent in the year to 29 April 2012 from £114.4m to £121.5m.

"The management strategy for the future is to focus on the controlled expansion of our store estate and the accelerated growth of our e-commerce/multi-channel business which we expect to benefit greatly from the significant investment we are now making in it," the directors' report in the latest accounts said.

"Product will continue to be reviewed to ensure we deliver the strong value message to our customers and cost control will remain key."

The results are a stark contrast to the company's situation in 2008. Hermes Private Equity backed the retailer in a £50m buyout in 2005.

However, it struggled with heavy debt and entered administration three years later. Executive chairman Anthony Solomon and Endless partnered in 2008 to buy The Works out of administration for £15m.

In the 2011/12 financial year, the company strengthened its board with Kevin Keaney joining as managing director in August and Nick Wood taking up the role of retail operations director in October.

Keaney replaced Anthony Solomon as chief executive in January, with Solomon moving to the position of executive chairman. In the same month, The Works began to develop its multi-channel business and appointed Nick Thomas as e-commerce director.

During the second half of the year, the chain recorded a "very strong" trading performance of 5 per cent like-for-like growth as a result of the appointments and new initiatives, according to the directors report.

In addition, the business was ranked seventh in the Sunday Times Buyout 100 Fast Track 2012, topping the list of Midlands companies.