Dunnes Stores’ Northern Ireland business returns to profit

Accounts offer rare glimpse into retail group’s financial performance

Dunnes Stores’ Northern Ireland business returned to profit in 2021 after swinging to a loss the previous year.

Dunnes Stores Bangor, the main entity behind the retail giant’s 15 stores in Northern Ireland, reported profits after tax climbed to almost £5.3 million (€5.9m) in 2021 from a loss of £8 million in 2020. The family owned company generated sales of £118.8 million in the year to the end of Christmas 2021, up from £101.8 million in the previous trading year.

In a note to the accounts, director Dr Anne Heffernan said the group’s “philosophy is summed up by ‘better value’” and acknowledged that all of its stakeholders work hard to achieve this.

In a separate note the directors said that the retail market remains “highly competitive” and that the principal risk the Dunnes Stores group faces is “trading in the current economic climate”.

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“The group’s performance is influenced by normal supply, demand factors and competition,” the directors said, adding its balance sheet remains “robust with strong cash flow and no external financing”. The directors said they have “a reasonable expectation” that the group has adequate resources to continue operating for the foreseeable future.

The accounts offer a rare glimpse under the bonnet of the Dunnes Stores group, which is registered with the Companies Registration Office in the Republic as an unlimited company, meaning it is not obliged to file publicly available accounts. The Northern Irish entity was also responsible for the group’s outlets in Britain, which were closed in 2018.

However, in a note to the accounts the directors said that Dunnes Stores Bangor has now been re-registered as an unlimited company in the UK, meaning its accounts will no longer be available for public scrutiny in the future.

Accumulated profits at the Northern Irish company topped £45 million at the end of the 2021 financial year and its cash pile grew by 30 per cent from 2020 to £38 million.

The group employed 987 people at the end of 2021, down from 1,034 in 2020. although staff costs remained essentially static from year to year at £14.9 million, including salaries, social welfare and pension costs.

Dunnes Stores Bangor owed its creditors £53 million at the end of last year, close to 70 per cent of which was owed to other companies within the Dunnes group.

The company paid a negligible interim dividend of £2,000 to other group undertakings last year after declining to pay out at all in 2020. Dividends have been falling in recent years, with just £120,000 paid in 2019, down from just under half a million the previous year.

Directors were not remunerated by the Northern Irish entity in 2021, with the accounts noting that these costs are borne by another group company.

Ian Curran

Ian Curran is a Business reporter with The Irish Times