UK: Losses fall as cooker sales heat up
Cast-iron cooker maker AGA Rangemaster said the appetite of British householders for buying kitchen appliances was growing despite uncertainties around interest rates and the mortgage market.
The Leamington Spa-based group said first-half sales rose 3.3% to £123.5 million, while pre-tax losses narrowed to £300,000 from £2.4 million in the same period last year. In the UK, which accounts for two-thirds of revenues, sales lifted 9.7%.
It hopes to build on the performance in the second half with a range of new products but said that, on current trading and outlook, sales markets “remain consistent and variable”.
“Uncertainties around mortgage availability and interest rates are a contributing factor. Even so, the willingness of consumers choosing to spend money on kitchen appliances has increased in the UK and North America,” the group said.
It comes as UK borrowers face tighter mortgage affordability checks under new rules introduced earlier this year, and speculation about a forthcoming hike in interest rates.
AGA said its Fired Earth tiles brand had a “strong profitable first half” with a recovery in the market driving a double digit sales increase.
New stores for the brand opened over the last three years in the South East were “performing well in the strengthened housing market”.
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The firm also said it hoped to boost sales of its products among those who may “not consider them as relevant to their home and lifestyles”.
It said its new AGA City 60 model, which sells for £4,995 was aimed at widening its customer base and attracting “urban, younger audiences”.
This model has roughly the same dimensions as standard kitchen cabinets and is equipped with wheels to help when moving house.
The group said new designs launched since 2011 had accounted for 60% of AGA orders during the first half.
AGA said after a reorganisation last year its Irish and US businesses were yet to recover profitability and sales fell. It also struggled in France.
But the group planned to begin sales in China in the autumn after spending more than two years gaining the right accreditations.
Operating profits jumped 60% to £2.4 million from a year ago. The pre-tax result was impacted by £2 million pensions charge.