While not being as severe as previous quarters, like-for-likes at Topps Tiles have remained negative for a third consecutive quarter as the lack of momentum in the housing and kitchen & bathroom markets removes one of the main reasons to buy.
With inflation outpacing wage growth and the greater economic uncertainty impacting consumer confidence, many shoppers are deferring discretionary purchases until conditions improve. The challenging market is reiterated by overall sales falling 1.6% for the year despite the net opening of 21 for the whole year, with five opening between July and September 2017.
During the year, Topps has invested in enhancing its offer to be in a stronger position once conditions improve. Following the launch of its ‘Natural Service’ training platform, service ratings, as measured by Topps, have improved. For financial year 2016/17, Topps launched 34 new ranges which accounted for 9.2% of sales with 83% of its products now exclusive to the retailer. To capitalise on this, however, Topps must do more to promote these new ranges to drive awareness, with product placement on interior design TV programmes being one possible option.
Topps is also continuing to raise its profile in the trade market, increasing the number of tradesmen signed to its Rewards+ loyalty scheme by 10% to 55,000 and acquiring a small business in the commercial tile sector to fulfil more commercial sales through its stores. Given the greater resiliency of the trade sector, this is the right strategy to pursue.
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