Home Shopping group N Brown is eyeing further acquisitions to drive growth as it revealed a strong first half.
The fashion retailer, which specialises in plus-size clothing, said there were opportunities for more acquisitions following its purchase of outsize menswear brand High & Mighty last year and online lingerie brand Figleaves in June.
Chief executive Alan White said he “definitely” saw acquisitions as “part of the mix, particularly in upmarket and online”.
However, he added: “We have to be careful we don’t spread ourselves too thinly.”
White said High & Mighty was “doing well” since N Brown acquired it, and is planning to open three stores - in Liverpool, Newcastle and Belfast - taking its store count to 17. This week High & Mighty also revealed its revamped flagship on London’s Edgware Road.
White said the retailer would get to 25 stores before reviewing expansion plans.
He added that while the plus-size market had been “weak”, N Brown believed that a specialised focus on the “larger customer or the older customer” was a “good place to be”.
White said that Figleaves was doing “extremely well”, and added: “We’re seeing very strong sales at the moment.”
He said that own brand accounted for 15% of Figleaves’ sales and that N Brown had an “aspiration to build that”.
The retailer revealed a 5.5% uplift in adjusted pre-tax profit, to £44.1m in the six months to August 28.
Turnover increased 3.2% to £349.7m while like-for-likes were up 0.6%, excluding sales from High & Mighty and Figleaves.
Current trading has improved, with like-for-likes up 2.1% in the six weeks to October 9. Total sales increased 5.1%. Gross margin improved by 0.6% to 53.7%.
Operating profit increased 4.5% to £46.2m in the six-month period. Ecommerce sales grew 17% to £150m.
White said he was “delighted” with the performance, which included “great growth” in its Jacamo and Marisota brands.
The retailer notched up a strong performance in menswear with sales up 28% in the six-month period.
White said that Germany had a “good season” and that the US was performing well but that it was “very early days”.
He added that the general economic situation wasn’t easy but was a “bit more predictable”. “We’ll do more online and more international, as well as growth in the portfolio we’ve already got,” he said.
Shoe Capital analyst Ramona Tipnis said: “There are some encouraging signs and the shares will likely respond positively as there has also been an improving trend in current trading.”
Numis analyst Andy Wade said: “N Brown has delivered a strong operational first half, the highlight being an improvement in gross margin. We remain confident in the N Brown story.”