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Victorian Plumbing shares sink 40% on “subdued” outlook for bathroom market

·2 min read
Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen in Victorian Plumbing  ad ( Victorian Plumbing )
Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen in Victorian Plumbing ad ( Victorian Plumbing )

Victorian Plumbing’s stock sank today after the UK’s biggest online bathroom products seller warned of an “unpredictable” short-term trading outlook.

The wipeout saw shares crash by as much as 45% from 155p to 90p, in the worst day of trading since the retailer’s bumper float in June.

The scale of the collapse surprised analysts, coming off the back of a relatively upbeat set of results with revenues up 29% in the year to October and underlying profits of £40.1 million.

The firm’s £850 million IPO was the largest ever completed on the junior AIM exchange and crystallised a fortune for founder Mark Radcliffe, who sold shares worth £212 million from his 72% stake.

Like other online household retailers, it thrived during the pandemic as locked-down homeowners spent money saved on leisure activities and meals out on sprucing up their properties.

But the company said that in recent months consumers have spent more on leisure and less on big-ticket homeware purchases.

Radcliffe said: “This has been a milestone year. Although the short-term outlook is difficult to predict as the world normalises from the events of the last two years, it is inevitable that consumer buying behaviour will continue to move online.

“The Board remains confident in the medium to long-term growth prospects for Victorian Plumbing.”

The fall pared back to settle around 35% down by lunchtime: Bloomberg reported a block trade of 2.1 million shares at a market value of £1.97 million as part of a huge increase in volume.

Broker Numis said: “ The lockdown period drove channel shift and product demand, but both have reverted quicker than expected.

“This period has also provided a lifeline and fuel to direct competitors. Together, circumstances which have driven a significant rebasing in the outlook for VP.

“Underpinned by its own brand, scale and tech advantage, we still see VP as the longterm winner in the UK bathroom sector, but the journey looks more challenged than hoped. “

Radcliffe began his business career selling mobile phone parts on eBay from the garden shed of his parents’ Merseyside home, and founded VP in 2000.

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