Luxury tea helps stir Fortnum & Mason sales

View of Christmas Hamper items on display in Mayfair department store
Tea costing up to £25 has helped stir sales at Fortnum & Mason Credit:  Clara Molden

Fortnum & Mason celebrated a jump in sales and soaring profits as customers flocked to its stores for tea, biscuits, smoked salmon and champagne. 

Profits at the 312-year-old upmarket department store rose 26pc rise to £12.1m in the year to July 14 on a 12pc increase in sales to £138m.

Fortnum & Mason operates four stores in the UK, including its flagship site at London’s Piccadilly. Last week it opened its first overseas standalone store in Hong Kong

Comparable sales at the Piccadilly store rose 6pc compared with the previous 12 months, with online revenues climbing 13pc. 

Demand for upmarket tea helped boost sales, with loose-leaf varieties now accounting for more than two-thirds of all tea sales at Fortnum & Mason. 

Despite industry data pointing to a steep decline in British tea consumption, chief executive Ewan Venters insisted that the hot beverage would remain popular with Fortnum’s customers.

He said loose tea was also becoming increasingly popular among younger customers who prefer it over teabags due to environmental concerns. 

Fortnum & Mason sells a wide range of tea, with the most expensive, Jasmine Silver Needle, costing £24.95 a tin online. 

“If a cup of tea is the most important drink of the day for many people, then why wouldn’t you want to spend a bit extra?” Mr Venters said. 

The retailer has also launched a sparkling tea amid growing demand for non-alcoholic alternatives. 

Mr Venters admitted that sales at its new standalone store in Hong Kong, which opened last week, were at 50pc of targets as violent protests continue to hurt tourism in the region.

He said he was pleased with the new store’s performance to date, with customers spending as much as HK$7,000 (£692) in a single visit. 

“The average spend is exactly where we want it to be," Mr Venters said. “Hong Kong is going to come back beautifully and it’s going to be great for Fortnum’s. By Chinese New Year I’ll be able to say we’re on budget, not behind.”