Fit for the future
At the time of writing, the UK retail estate remains in national lockdown with all shops closed. As we await UK Government guidance on exactly when and how our shops can re-open, we continue to develop our omni-channel strategy, rolling out and utilising digital shop windows to promote the William Hill brand and a unified UK marketing strategy. Our shops offer real potential to modernise the in-person experience for our customers as we converge the Online and Retail technology platforms.
Covid-19 had the greatest impact on Retail during the year with the closure of all shops from 20 March until 15 June followed by localised closures before the second nationwide closure in England from 4 November to 2 December. Even when open, shops were often subject to restrictions on trade such as no live sport and a maximum of two gaming machines. As a result of the first lockdown 119 shops were not re-opened leaving an estate of 1,414 shops at the end of the year.
On a statutory basis, net revenue was down 51% year on year as a result of the pandemic, as well as trading over one quarter of pre-£2 stake limit implementation and the closure of 713 shops at the end of the third quarter in 2019. Using a like-for-like5 measure of performance based on shops that were trading in the same weeks in both years, delivered a net revenue performance of -30%.
During the year, colleagues were paid 100% of their wages and while the UK Government furlough support was taken initially, the full amount of £24.5m was repaid in the second half. This responsible action contributed to a loss in the year of £29.5m against a prior year profit of £83.2m.
We believe that LBO customers are looking for an entertaining and engaging experience, ranking convenience as their main reason to bet in LBOs per se and location and customer service as the key reasons for choosing a particular LBO. We have focused on the quality of our customer service, our product range – particularly in football – and technology innovations to bring customers an attractive and differentiated offering.
In an industry where there are so many competitors offering similar products both over-the-counter and on gaming machines, William Hill differentiates itself by having the best people in customer-facing roles.
The face of William Hill is brought to life by our many outstanding colleagues in our shops. Our people are always ready to help our customers and provide an experience that is not just enjoyable, but amazing.
Our teams benefit from a unique training structure which allows them to become experts in our products. This sets us apart even further from the industry competitors, as no matter what issues arise, our colleagues can be relied upon to provide a solution to earning us the only thing money cannot buy on the high street…trust.
Match all of the above with the fact that our average colleagues’ length of service is 15 years and you know we have great strength in providing customer service and product knowledge. We also feature extremely contemporary designs and technology in our shops, ensuring that our product offering on the high street is second to none.
Our customers can enjoy watching their racing on banks of HD television screens in a majority of our estate, with clearly displayed markets and pricing that prioritises upcoming races and events.
In our estate, almost 400 shops have seen the introduction of the video wall, enhancing the viewing experience to a whole new level through innovation. The video wall offers our customers the ability to watch their favourite sports in cinematic size images and quality, with featured events ranging from horse and greyhound races to virtual and football. The William Hill TV team makes the customer experience even more exhilarating, with cutting edge commentary, focusing on best value promotions on the high street and an overview of market movers on all our products.
Our customers also have the added advantage of seeing televised and sometimes live footage of our world famous pundits. Robbie Savage and A.P. McCoy lead the way to present expert opinions to our customers on football and horse racing.
We provide a further option for our customers to take control of any question they might have with our Price Finder screens. This is a key feature in all of our LBOs, allowing our customers an opportunity to review prices for all major sports and also to check results at the push of a button.
When you walk into a William Hill shop, you can expect to be welcomed on entry with a wave, smile or a friendly hello. There will always be someone on hand to tell you about the shop and to help with any queries, issues or simply how to write out a bet. We also offer a one-stop-shop for our customers in regards to our Self Service Betting Terminals. These stand-alone machines offer our customer the opportunity to bet on sports of all kind from any part of the world, providing an online experience in the shops with outstanding markets especially on worldwide football.
Last but not least are our Inspired gaming machines that feature the best technology on the high street. Allowing our customers to play their favourite games on a machine with four screens. These feature HD touch screens and a smart player panel screen, and are enabled to promote hints and tips on responsible gambling and to provide limit-setting technology.
Retail employs around 9,000 colleagues across the UK. We employ people of all ages and a significant number of colleagues between the ages of 18 and 25 years, plus more than 50% of our Retail workforce roles are occupied by women. We have a diverse and multi-cultural workforce who enjoy an atmosphere that encourages and cherishes people from varying backgrounds and cultures.
When it comes to our customers, we provide a safe, modern and engaging community in which they like to spend their leisure time. For many people our shops are a place to meet friends, both customers and employees.
Our shops are a place where people know your first name and celebrate your birthdays, a place where your opinion counts, a place to share the challenges and success of daily life with a cup of tea or coffee in hand.
We are over 80 years old and we are an integral part of Britain’s high streets and communities. We provide a bedrock for employment in all the locations in which we have a presence, as we recruit locally and many community initiates, including working with local councils and supporting local charity events and programmes.