THE boss of Lush says it has “got through to the other end” after the worst financial year in its history.

The Poole-based global cosmetics seller revealed a pre-tax loss of £45.2million for the financial year ending June 2020.

But co-founder and chief executive Mark Constantine said the business had since returned to profit and avoided mass job losses.

Lush has seen sales drop by 23 per cent over the past two financial years.

It lost 215 UK staff in a redundancy programme starting last summer – 100 of them in Poole and 32 in its factories.

Lush said £37.9m of its £45.2m loss for 2019-20 was explained by accounting adjustments which wrote down the value of assets and leases for “anchor” stores.

Mr Constantine told the Daily Echo: “What’s I suppose impressive is the fact that we managed to get through to the other end.”

He admitted to a “bleak week” at the start of the pandemic when lockdowns closed most of the company’s stores around the world. It happened in the same week that Lush co-founder Liz Bennett, formerly Weir, died.

“It was really a bleak week. At that stage, I thought I just couldn’t see how we were going to come through,” Mr Constantine said.

Lush avoided widespread job losses with the help of the UK’s furlough scheme and other government support around the world.

“We were unbelievably fortunate and thank God for the different schemes that enabled that. We didn’t have to have a mass redundancy programme,” said Mr Constantine.

Lush’s digital sales are predicted to top £100m this financial year – compared with £46m in the last year before the pandemic. Many staff transferred from other parts of the business to packing parcels as online sales rose.

Mr Constantine said of Lush’s Poole factories: “We’re supplying Britain predominantly and some export markets from Britain and things are still quite OK there. They’re not great.

“We will be employing plenty of people Poole. We’ll still be increasing employment up to Christmas like we always do.”

Most of last year’s job losses so far have affected head office functions.

“This is where it hits the local economy more,” said Mr Constantine.

“We were bringing managers from all over the world to be trained in Poole. We were filling up the hotels. Our travel staff are down to two or three now whereas they were, say, 10 before. Our events staff, they were probably running at about 20. They’re down to three or four.

“Do we anticipate that starting again soon? No. not at the moment.”

A year has passed since the period covered by the newly-filed accounts.

“We already know that we’ve restored profits to an extremely good level and we’ve restored all our cash,” said Mr Constantine.

“That’s because we haven’t been opening any shops and haven’t been doing very much. We’ve just hunkered down. It’s a bit like going into an air raid shelter really, we’ve hunkered down, we’ve peeked out, we’ve fulfilled anything anyone wanted of us.”

Lush has said business in Britain, France and Germany has been disrupted by Brexit. But Mr Constantine – who wanted Britain to remain in the European Union – said the issue had become a “fairly mild irritation”.

“Having had a fundamental challenge to the total business, red tape and irritation with Brexit has paled into significance really – but it’s still irritating and nothing’s growing from it,” he said.

“It’s like watching a bit of your garden where nothing grows because it’s all tied up, it’s not working.”