Department store merchandising changes boosted sales later on
Beales has slashed its full-year profit before tax, reducing it by nearly 75 per cent compared to the previous year. The department store chain said that intense competition, price deflation and cautious consumer spending had affected the results. However, it said it had experienced more positive sales during the second half of the period, following an improvement in the selection of merchandise. The retailer said pre-tax profit had shrunk from£1.08 million to£260,000. Turnover was down for the 52 weeks ended October 30 by 5.5 per cent, from£69.1 million to£65.3 million like for like.

Gross profit margin improved from 51 per cent to 52.41 per cent over the year, and net debt was reduced by£1.7 million to£7.5 million.

Beales followed a raft of retailers by reporting poor sales over Christmas this year, saying that for the 11 weeks to January 15, gross sales were 4 per cent down on a like-for-like basis.

However, the board is upbeat in the face of a continuingly difficult trading climate, and is confident that it is getting its product mix right for the coming year. It said that customers had responded well to the introduction of young and more contemporary fashion ranges to most stores.

Beale group chairman Mike Killingley said: 'Improving the product offer is a continuing focus and we shall introduce new departments such as Audio/TV, childrenswear and arts and crafts, into selected stores during the current year.'The retailer's board is shortly to be joined by Hilary Santell as buying and merchandise director, who starts on February 14. Her appointment was announced last October. She joins from Littlewoods and previously was with Burton Group, House of Fraser, Next and Marchpole Holdings.