The White Company has hired womenswear guru Barbara Horspool as clothing director to bolster the retailer’s growing fashion arm.
Her appointment as clothing director came as the fashion and homewares retailer’s profits jumped 37% to £6.5m for the year ending March 29, while sales increased 14.5% to £143.8m.
The White Company chief executive Will Kernan said he was “particularly happy” with the performance of womenswear, which now represents 40% of turnover.
He said: “Hiring Barbara Horspool is a statement of intent within the category as to how we are going to move that product on and improve the styling.”
Horspool joins from Jigsaw where she was product director. Before that she was at New Look where she played a key role in upping the retailer’s fashion credentials. She has also been head of womenswear design at Marks & Spencer.
The White Company recorded strong growth across all its product ranges during the year. Adult clothing sales were up 26%, baby clothing rose 22% and fragrance sales increased 17%.
The retailer has grown profits by improving gross margins and cost efficiencies, despite “significant investment” in new stores and improving the online customer experience.
The strong performance has continued since year-end. Sales since the launch of the autumn range in September are up 16% year on year.
Kernan said: “Black Friday and the ‘cyber weekend’ as a whole far exceeded our expectations. It was an unprecedented response and going forward it will change the customers’ mindset around the phasing of Christmas and when they are going to shop.
“When you have a strong reaction you are always concerned you have brought sales forward, at the moment that is not being borne out.”
Kernan said the retailer “performed well” in the week after the Black Friday weekend and added: “Who knows what will happen when we get into Boxing Day? I suspect customers will still be after a bargain and I expect January Sales are going to be strong.”
The White Company opened two stores this year including a new format in Norwich.
Kernan said he was delighted with sales at the store and added he would roll out the format elsewhere.
He said: “The store is much more like a home than a traditional store. It breaks a lot of rules in terms of layout and retail densities.”
The White Company now has 52 stores in the UK and 12 in the Middle East.