Specsavers' latest pre-tax profits soared from £240million to £441million in the same financial year in which the company made hundreds of redundancies - including dozens in Guernsey.
The retailer, owned by the Guernsey-based Perkins family, saw sales and revenue fall in the year up to the end of February 2021. But a programme of cost-cutting helped boost profits. Net profits surged from £152million to £338million.
Early in the covid-19 pandemic, Specsavers made 450 redundancies. It is believed that around 70 of these were in Guernsey.
At the time, Chief Executive John Perkins said: "Like many other companies, the downturn in business that we have experienced has been dramatic and, coupled with a challenging outlook for the economy, we have had no option but to stop many of our major programmes, halt significant capital investment initiatives and carry out an exercise to streamline our organisational structure."
The latest filings at Companies House show how rapidly the business recovered from those challenges. Just nine months later, it had doubled its pre-tax profits. And it is reported that the company has since taken on more staff than it made redundant at the start of the pandemic.
Pictured: Specsavers experienced a drop in revenues but an increase in profits in the financial year to the end of February 2021.
The Retail Gazette reports that Specsavers, the largest optical chain in Europe, "also took advantage of government support funding in the first months of the pandemic in various countries, but had no need of that after the start of October 2020".
Express asked Specsavers the following questions:
In hindsight, were redundancies at the beginning of the pandemic required?
Has the workforce expanded since?
Did you take government support and, if so, has it since been paid back?
The last of these questions was asked partly in the context of a request made by the States' Policy & Resources Committee for locally-based businesses which received States' covid-19 funding to repay what they had received if they subsequently found that they did not need it.
Specsavers provided Express with the following statement:
“Despite yet another difficult year for all retailers, we are thankful to our hard-working store colleagues and home visits teams. They have risen to every challenge, continuing to provide vital eye care and hearing services to those who have needed them.
“At the start of the pandemic, customer numbers fell significantly, so we took prudent measures to protect the business. This included halting major investment programmes that reduced our planned in-year investment by £152 million across our group. By autumn 2020, we began to see a return to more usual levels of trading as restrictions eased and customers started to return to the high street and retail centres.
“This means that we can start reinstating projects that were paused. However, we are balancing the need for investment and growth with a level of caution that protects the business from the ongoing impact of the pandemic.”