Overall sales at the Top Shop to Burton group were flat at£1.66 billion, up 0.8 per cent from a restated 2003 figure of£1.64 billion. Like-for-like sales fell 0.8 per cent. Same-store sales were up 3.1 per cent in the first seven weeks of the current year. The operating margin was up 4 percentage points at 17.9 per cent, because of better buying and lower markdowns.
Owner Philip Green announced a£500 million dividend to shareholders,£460 million of which will go to his family, because they own a 92 per cent stake. The rest will go to HBOS, which owns an 8 per cent stake. Bank debt was reduced from£400 million to£120 million by the year-end.
Green attributed the strong profit growth to continued improvements in the supply chain. 'We have continued to work with our supply chain, speed to market and the customer demands of newness in-store to great effect,' Green said. 'All of our eight brands continued to progress under the leadership and direction of our brand directors.'
The retailer opened 53 shops in the year to August and plans to open 54 this financial year.