Dr. Martens repays UK COVID-19 aid after sales boom

British boot maker Dr. Martens has paid back a government aid package meant to support its workers during the coronavirus pandemic following a massive sales surge.

The iconic brand known for its chunky footwear revealed the decision Wednesday as it reported a 48 percent revenue spike that nearly doubled its profits for the fiscal year ending March 31.

The company took advantage of the UK government’s Job Retention Scheme as COVID-19 forced it to close stores around the world. The aid covered 80 percent of the salaries for its retail staff and UK manufacturing workers during the shutdown, while Dr. Martens said it kicked in the other 20 percent.

The brand said it stopped accessing the money in June once its UK stores had reopened, but its board decided to return the taxpayer funds it used “given the resilience in trading and financial strength of the business.” The company pointed to “continued strong growth” in revenue from online sales that mitigated the impact of the store closures.

“The last few months have been a very challenging time for everyone and I am extremely proud of the resilience and commitment our teams have shown, which has enabled us to continue delivering for our customers throughout the pandemic,” Dr. Martens CEO Kenny Wilson said in a statement.

The pandemic hit Dr. Martens at the tail end of a fiscal year that saw its underlying profits surge 93 percent to 164.4 million pounds (about $215.4 million) on revenues of 672.2 million pounds (roughly $881 million).

E-commerce and retail sales accounted for about 45 percent of that revenue, while the rest came from the company’s wholesale business. The brand also opened 16 new retail stores, ending the fiscal year with 122 locations in all.

“While we are currently in a volatile and uncertain trading environment, we have a very clear strategy in place supported by a strong brand and consumer connections, and I am confident in the outlook for the business,” Wilson said.

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