N Brown’s full-year pre-tax profit rose by 5.5% and the home shopping retailer said it will open bricks and mortar stores for its Simply Be brand this year.
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The retailer achieved record profits of £98.2m, before tax and fair value adjustment, and total sales of £718.8m. Like-for-likes sales were up 1.3% for the year ending February 26.
N Brown continues to perform well in its current year with like-for-likes up 1.5% in the 10 weeks to May 7.
The home shopping group will open stores for its Simply Be catalogue and online brand.The retailer is to trial three concept stores for the plus-size brand during the year. The move follows the home shopping group’s first foray into physical stores through its acquisition of the High & Mighty brand in September 2009.
N Brown put its first foot into the US last autumn launching Simply Be in the territory, which achieved sales of just under £1m. The retailer plans to despatch a further three million catalogues this summer.
N Brown chief executive Alan White said he expects the current year to be challenging in the face of rising costs and falling incomes but predicts this will improve in 2012.
He said: “The UK consumer is facing rising costs and falling incomes in 2011, but we anticipate a slow but steady rising trend in disposable income thereafter.”
The home shopping group said it may need targeted promotional campaigns to stimulate sales during the year ahead.
Menswear and footwear were the top-performing categories with sales up 25% and 10% respectively. Menswear brand Jacamo was the fastest growing brand with total revenue up 66%.
N Brown said its younger brands continued to be the fastest growing part of its business, including new acquisition Figleaves, reaching £240m sales. Like-for-likes were up 4% in this sector. Figleaves, which it acquired in June last year, reported like-for-likes up 4%, and sales rose to £16m. The lingerie etailer cut its underlying losses to £0.9m.
Figleaves chief executive Julia Reynolds was last week appointed to be the new chief executive of Blacks. She joins in August.
Its other acquisition High & Mighty, which it bought out of administration, achieved losses of £0.8m against sales of over £7m, which the retailer said was “good progress”.
Its older brands, targeting over 65s, declined by 9% to £48m which N Brown said was because that age-group was finding the economic conditions particularly tough.
The retailer said its womeswear sales were mixed although fashionable younger clothing, including its own brand fast fashion online collections and sportswear, had done well. It said customers were focusing their spend on statement clothing favouring celebrity-designed, higher priced ranges, which it expects to continue in its current year. N Brown will tie up with a several celebrities to design capsule ranges over the year.
N Brown said it had raised prices to counteract escalating production costs. It expects prices to rise by 9% in 2011.
Internet sales soared 19% to £324m for the year and now accounts for 45% of its revenue. The retailer invested £10m in upgrading its online system during the year as it seeks to ramp up its internet sales. It is launching a new content management system this summer which will allow greater personalisation on its site.
White said: ”Our key focus this year will be to expand our home shopping business, both in the UK and internationally, particularly by further developing our online activities. While the current year will be challenging, I am confident this strategy will deliver another good result this year.”