The Timpson family paid themselves a £12.8m dividend last year as dry cleaning, key cutting, watch repairs and photo processing bounced back at the high street stalwart after pandemic lockdowns.
The family-owned Timpson Group includes Snappy Snaps, Johnsons dry cleaners and a small group of pubs alongside its namesake shoe-repair and key-cutting business. It doubled comparable profits to £36.5m in the year to 1 October 2022 and sales rose to £297.4m, up about 40%.
Sir John Timpson, the company’s chair, who took the business from shoe shops into services, said sales of key cutting, watch repair and photo processing had all bounced back after being hit during lockdowns when “no one was going to work, parties or getting married.
There was no reason to get anything dry-cleaned apart from a duvet.”
“We had a fantastic year last year and it is going just as well this year,” he added.
The return of holidays abroad has caused a surge in demand for passport photos at Snappy Snaps, while the group says watch repairs are big business again as people want to make sure they keep their appointments. Car-key cutting is one of the group’s fastest-growing businesses.
However, Timpson bemoaned the fact that shoe repairs had not seen a similar revival because of the surge in popularity of trainers during the pandemic. The service has been in long-term decline because of competition from cheap footwear and the switch to more casual dressing. It now only makes up a “modest part” of the group’s trade.
The group plans to open 40 new outlets this year – the vast majority of which will be “pods” in supermarket carparks which offer watch and shoe repairs and key cutting – but Timpson said he did not think shoppers had deserted high streets, where the group has more than 800 outlets.
“Some of our highest-turnover shops are on the high street.” he said. “People have got the wrong vision for the high street. People see empty shops, but some need to be empty as we have got too many. They need to be turned into something else – housing, more services for people.”
Amid surging wage costs, Timpson said the business, which offers staff perks including company holiday homes and mental health support, had found a way to operate with just one person running many outlets, with support from regional managers who could step in to cover time off.
Timpson Group is also expanding into vending machines that offer simple key-cutting and photo ID.
The end of pandemic restrictions has also enabled the group to restart its programme of recruitment from prisons. It now takes on about 150 ex-offenders a year, and more than 10% of its workforce is now made up of that cohort.