• First profit-before-tax in a decade
  • Online sales jump 26.8%
  • Sales up 4.2% across stores and online

House of Fraser has reported a return to profit for the first time in a decade, as online sales jumped by more than a quarter.

In the year to January 30, House of Fraser’s profit before tax stood at £1.3m.

Across stores and online, sales increased 4.2%, on a 52-week basis excluding VAT and the impact of the 53rd week in the previous year. Gross transaction value was £1.3bn.

However bricks-and-mortar like-for-likes edged up just 0.1%. Online sales jumped 26.8%, representing 18.9% of total sales.

House of Fraser is investing in all areas of online, launching an Australian website later this month, developing its online loyalty scheme Recognition and improving click-and-collect areas in 17 stores.

The department store chain has also added two other next-day delivery options to its roster: pre-noon and afternoon.

All categories delivered increased like-for-likes, with menswear performing particularly well, growing 8.5%.

House brands delivered record sales and cash margin, although branded sales outperformed house brands, with the former delivering 6.7% growth compared with the latter’s 4%.

Continued investment

House of Fraser plans to open its first Chinese store late this year. It is also investing in its British store portfolio, with six major store refurbishments completed last year and a new 64,000 sq ft anchor store in Rushden Lakes shopping centre in Northamptonshire due to open next spring.

It also invested in staff this year, choosing to apply the national living wage to staff of all ages.

House of Fraser said the first 10 weeks of the current year had been affected by “challenging trading conditions, as seen across the retail sector” and that sales were in line with last year but that it remained “cautiously optimistic for the remainder of the financial year”.

Chief executive Nigel Oddy said that profit and growth had been driven by “continued progress across both our online and bricks-and-mortar stores, despite the volatile trading environment in the final quarter”.

He added: “Looking ahead, while mindful of ongoing uncertainty around the EU referendum and the challenging market conditions experienced across the retail industry since the beginning of 2016, we remain cautiously optimistic and believe we are well positioned to deliver further growth in the year ahead.”