Pawnbroker Albemarle & Bond has announced that it will pursue prestige watches as a product against which loans can be secured, as it looks to widen its consumer base.
The new direction was mentioned in Albemarle’s interim results for the six months to December 31 2012, announced earlier today.
It’s chief executive Barry Stephenson said: "In 2012 we initiated a review of the changing structure of our business, the market, our customers, and the competition. This has resulted in an updated growth plan for the business that will shape the evolution of the group.
"Our strategy to drive future growth will build on our pawnbroking offer and provide a broader set of lending choices and cash services to our customer base."
Albemarle plans to increase its offer to existing customers and attract new customers by offering secured pawnbroking loans against a broader range of items including prestige watches, diamonds and non-hallmarked gold.
Stephenson added: "We have increased the number of watches we buy, sell and lend on and diversified our service […] We have invested in state of the art technology that enables our staff to precisely evaluate customer’s jewellery for all of its precious metal content.
"We are currently promoting a more flexible pawnbroking approach that is more consistent with our customers’ cash flow requirements, and we continue to maximise profits and lending potential by improving disposition activities, as witnessed by our growing retail business."
Albermarle’s profits before tax were down 33% to £8.1 million in the six months to December 31 last year, in line with its expectations owing to reduced gold buying profits.
Its pawnbroking profits totalled £17.6 million in the six months, up 2.3% on 2012’s figure of £17.2m. It ended the year with a pledge book of £38.1 million, down just slightly on 2012’s £38.3 million, owing to "the reduced volumes of gold in circulation and increased competition".
At present Albemarle & Bond has 233 store locations in the UK.