Ethel Austin sales jump powered by new ranges

Value clothing retailer Ethel Austin, reinvigorated on the back of last June's management buy-out, has notched up a 72 per cent hike in interim operating profits to£10.2 million.

Chief executive Phil Hoskinson said sales jumped 13 per cent to£105 million for the period - the eight months to end-April - buoyed by the performance of neighbourhood stores and new childrenswear and lingerie ranges. Like-for-like sales rose by 8 per cent.

Hoskinson said the Merseyside-based retailer had become more 'commercially-focused' and responsive, and sweeping changes had been introduced to its supply chain and clothing offer.

The supplier base has been restructured and product is now sourced in the UK and Europe, rather than the Far East, enabling the retailer to respond faster.

'Our customers are making it clear that our stores are more exciting places to come and shop,' said Hoskinson. 'The neighbourhood stores have seen that most of all.'

Verdict chairman Richard Hyman said Ethel Austin was 'a rising star of retail.'

Ethel Austin store numbers will top 250 this year, with eight new shops scheduled to open in the next six months.

The Austin family relinquished control of the business after 70 years in a£45 million deal last year. Now headed by Susan Prescott, the granddaughter of the chain's founders, the family retains a small equity stake in the store group and has an estimated fortune of£105 million.