Australasian chain JB Hi-Fi is in the midst of its biggest ever store opening program, as it continues to defy the retail slump.

At the home entertainment retailing group's annual general meeting in Melbourne on Oct. 14, chief executive Richard Uechtritz told shareholders that the chain remains on course to deliver revenues of $2.35 billion Australian ($1.68 billion) in the 2008/9 financial year, a 28% increase on the previous period.

The listed company, which currently operates around 100 JB-branded stores in Australia and New Zealand, offers a mix of music, DVD and games software and hardware, along with computer, camera and telephony products. It is regarded as the Australian market’s leading music merchant.

Uechtritz said that by Christmas the group will have opened 14 new outlets - 11 JB stores and three new additions to its electrical retailing chain Clive Anthony's - taking the total store network to 119.

"The property pipeline remains solid with approximately ten additional stores to be opened in the second half of the 2009 financial year," he said. "The 24 stores to open this [financial] year will be the biggest number of new stores that the company has opened in any year, which will help ensure its continued strong growth."

Chairman Patrick Elliott added that JB continues to expand out from its core state markets of Victoria and New South Wales. As well as strengthening its presence in the likes of Western Australia and Queensland, the company expects to have seven branded JB Hi-fi stores operating in New Zealand by Christmas.

"We continue to believe that the Australian/New Zealand market can support at least 150 JB Hi-Fi branded stores before creating any material cannibalization of existing store operations," he told the meeting.

He acknowledged that JB was operating in a tough economic climate and that every company was being scrutinized. "We expect, however, that these more challenging times in retail will prove a catalyst for further industry rationalization, increased market share for the company and further enhancement of our competitive advantage," said Elliott.

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