Plus-size fashion retailer N Brown’s profits increased in the first half as it unveiled plans to expand its fledgling store estate.
Profit before tax and fair value adjustments increased 7.1% to £45m in the 26 weeks to August 31.
Group sales jumped 8% to £409.6m while like-for-like sales increased by 7.8%. Like-for-like growth improved since the period end, rising 8% in the five weeks to October 5.
N Brown’s new chief executive Angela Spindler said the sales increase “reflects the success of our sustained investment in customer recruitment, which we have maintained at last year’s higher level”. Customer order numbers grew by 4.3% to more than 4 million. Sales per customer have also increased, Spindler said.
Product gross margin rose by 40 basis points during the first half.
The retailer has also unveiled plans to expand its store estate from seven to around 25 shops. N Brown will open a further two dual-fascia stores in Leeds and Derby at the end of this month, for its Jacamo and Simply Be brands.
N Brown opened its first physical stores for the brands in 2011. Before that sales were generated exclusively through online and catalogue.
“Stores are proving to be an effective multichannel hub for customers,” Spindler said.
Online sales increased 13% and N Brown said mobile now accounts for 36% of web traffic.
Sales at the retailer’s US operations surged 31% to £4.5m; however, this was below N Brown’s expectations. Spindler said that after implementing service improvements it has “now resumed the customer recruitment programme” and is “already seeing an encouraging acceleration in growth”.
Spindler said she expects the second half to remain in line with expectations and that the retailer will take advantage of its “market position in the plus-size and mature fashion retail arena”.
N Brown chairman Andrew Higginson said: “I am very pleased to be reporting strong sales growth of 8% for the first half of the year.
“During the period, we have welcomed Angela Spindler as CEO and have completed an extremely successful handover from Alan White, to whom I would like to give my personal thanks. The business is in an excellent position to continue to deliver positive results, as evidenced by our strong start to the second half.”
Spindler said: “I have spent my first three months looking at the business in detail and I am extremely excited by what I have seen.
“As these results demonstrate, the business is performing well, with significant opportunity for growth in the future based around our products, delivery channels and international development. Today, I am pleased to confirm the roll-out of our Simply Be/Jacamo store portfolio in the UK and I am looking forward to working with the excellent management team to build a leading global retailer famous for making shopping for fashion easy and enjoyable, regardless of size.”