By Michael Kavanagh
Published: July 19 2010 01:41 | Last updated: July 19 2010 01:41
BrightHouse, the chain that has revived the rental and hire-purchase retailing model on British high streets, increased full-year revenues by 11 per cent as rising unemployment helped underpin demand from millions of credit-starved consumers.
Leo McKee, chief executive, said he was targeting another 30 store openings this year, taking the total to 228, as BrightHouse sought to fill in geographical gaps in its national coverage.
The company, owned by private equity group Venture Capital, is targeting new store openings in south-east England in particular, where it has been historically underexposed, in part due to high retail rents rather than lack of demand.
BrightHouse, which recently opened its 200th store, in Bedford, is also rolling out new outlets in Orpington, Harlow, Bromley and Maidstone around London, with Croydon also targeted for a store launch soon.
Mr McKee said the wave of cheap retail properties made available by the demise of Woolworths and other retail chains was making it easier to secure premises close to areas where consumers who cannot secure conventional credit are concentrated.
“We have 205 stores, and are seeking to extend our foothold in London. But I see an actual potential for up to 650 outlets on the UK mainland,” he said.
The company, which uses personal credit-tracking agency Experian to identify zones of credit-limited populations, opened 21 outlets in the year to March 31, following a period of slower growth in outlets during the consumer credit boom.
Retail parks and high streets featuring Peacocks, Argos, Superdrug and Greggs tended to also suit the demographic catchment areas targeted by BrightHouse in planning new store openings, said Mr McKee.
“We are serving an unserved market of 5.2m households – with 180,000 customers, we currently have a 3 per cent market share,” he said.
Bad debts had risen from 6.8 per cent to