By Ian McConnell

The House of Bruar retail destination at Blair Atholl says it will make a “significant profit” for its financial year ending on Sunday, helped by the migration of customers to its online channel amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It yesterday also unveiled a rise in earnings and turnover for the year to January 2020, ahead of the pandemic. However, managing director Patrick Birkbeck flagged “concerns for 2021/22 with the continuance of Covid-19 and the potential lack of tourism from abroad, which may be accentuated with the slow vaccinations in Europe”.

Noting The House of Bruar employed 270 people in March 2020, the month in which the developing pandemic saw the UK move to full lockdown, Mr Birkbeck said he was “very proud that the company continues to have 270 employees today”.

He added: “This would not have been possible without the support of the government and the furlough scheme.”

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The UK Government coronavirus job retention scheme, through which the taxpayer supports the incomes of furloughed employees, was launched in March 2020 and is currently due to run until the end of April.

Mr Birkbeck noted that “currently the food hall is open and has been throughout the pandemic”. He added: “The rest of the shop has been open for every day that the restrictions have allowed.”

The family-owned holding company for The House of Bruar, Mark Birkbeck and Sons, achieved a 10 per cent increase in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation to £6.6m in the year to January 31, 2020, on the back of a 6% rise in turnover to nearly £33m. Its sole trading operation is The House of Bruar. Patrick Birkbeck noted that, in the year to January 2020, “the majority of turnover was achieved through retail operations and due to visitor numbers of two million people in the year”.

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Commenting on the current financial year ending on Sunday, he said: “Covid-19 has understandably meant that the retail performance in 2020/21 has been severely diminished and yet the company will produce a significant profit for the year. The migration of customers from retail to an already-healthy direct-shopping business has allowed [the] company to continue trading and to be successful in the pandemic.”

He flagged investment in the physical retail operations.

Mr Birkbeck said: “Although the direct-shopping channels have accounted for 70% of this year’s turnover, the Birkbeck family continue to believe in retail and are investing in retail departments during the current lockdown to ensure that we have innovative products and so that a visit to The House of Bruar is an exciting retail experience.”

He noted the “proportion of orders processed online has increased by 80% in 2020/21”.