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Strong festive results at catalogue-free Freemans

Freemans, the digital department store, has announced strong festive results as growth continued at the reimahined “digital department store.”

Sales figures for the eight weeks to the 31 December 2023 rose +5% when compared to the same period the previous year, despite a challenging backdrop for the retail sector for this Christmas.

Freemans bucked the wider trend with recent reports from the Office of National Statistics showing a slump in retail in December as sales plummeted 3.2% when compared to the previous month.

The on-line retailer, which has been on an aggressive digital transformation journey and last week announced a review of its media account, said that homewares and electricals were up +14%, partywear up +4% and Christmas decorations rose by +29% as it identified a new ‘tree in every room’ customer trend for the very first time.

In addition, over 60% of the products featured within it Made You Look Christmas TV all sold out including perfumes, bedding, soft furnishings and a ‘sparkling’ red Smeg Kettle.

Freemans also revealeded that Black Friday/Cyber Week in November was up +8% on the year.

A new customer marketing approach saw the launch of the pure play’s ‘Unlock’ initiative.

For the first-time customer accounts from old legacy trading brands, within its group portfolio, were ‘opened up’ so these customers could also shop seamlessly on Freemans.com as well.

This delivered a strong incremental performance with the Freemans website trading +17%, in the period, as a result.

Freemans announced last year that it would be dropping its famous catalogue for the first time in its 118-year history, while at the same time revealing a new on-line look and feel that would be used across all its owned channels and paid for marketing called Made You Look.

The announcement and subsequent above the line execution delivered an increase in visits to its website of + 23%.

The end of season sale also finished two weeks earlier than last year allowing the digital department store to go into the new season with full price hooked around its exclusive OTTO sourced parent company’s value range called bonprix.

Ann Steer, CEO, said: “The last quarter was one of the toughest I can recall, with continued pressures on the customer’s purse. As such I am delighted with the strong growth that we have delivered over Black Friday and Christmas. Sales were so encouraging that it allowed us to come out of sale earlier than last year and start the new season focussing on full price rather than discounting clearance.”

“Our announcement to drop the catalogue, something that in the past has been central to both our business and firmly embedded within the nation’s shopping habits for over a century, was very clearly the right thing to do with customers old and new responding well to our digital first approach.”

She added: “I would like to thank all my colleagues for a job really well done, set against a challenging wider economic backdrop that we believe will continue over the course of 2024.”

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