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Discount chain B&M has said it will open up to 45 new stores this year after sales soared during the coronavirus lockdown.

It said its business model was “well-attuned” to customer needs, with discount goods being sold at out-of-town stores.

Retailers have had mixed fortunes during the coronavirus pandemic.

In August, retail sales were boosted by increased spending on DIY, but clothing sales still lagged.

Supermarkets and DIY stores are among the retailers that have seen high demand during the pandemic as people stocked up on food and home improvement goods during and after lockdown.

Last week, Tesco and Morrisons again put limits on the number of some items that shoppers could buy to try to prevent a repeat of panic-buying which led to shortages in March.

Rising to the challenge

B&M, which sells goods including DIY and foodstuffs, said its staff had done well to keep up with demand during the half year.

It initially closed 60 stores in shopping centres during the pandemic, but reopened them quite quickly.

A spokesman for the group said that a lot of people were looking for ways of keeping spending down during the lockdown, which attracted new customers.

Those customers have kept coming back.

Group sales jumped by 25.3% between 29 March and 26 September, and the retailer raised its earnings forecast for the period to about £285m from its previous estimate of £250m to £270m.

“Our people have risen to the many challenges posed by the Covid-19 crisis, not least in serving our customers through a period of high demand, keeping our shelves filled, providing a clean and safe shopping environment, as well as sourcing higher volumes than we had planned,” said Simon Arora, B&M chief executive.

“I thank them all for their commitment, hard work and resilience.”

B&M said it expected to open up to 45 new stores in the year to April, mostly in the fourth quarter of the year. However, it warned that some smaller stores could be closed.

Despite bright prospects for some retailers, others have made dire warnings about the future of retail in the UK.

Last week, Next boss Lord Wolfson warned that thousands of traditional retail jobs were “unviable” because of the accelerated shift to online shopping brought about by the pandemic.

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