Multichannel retailer N Brown has reported its first-half group revenues were down by 0.6% while like-for-likes slipped 0.5%.

Chief executive Angela Spindler said the retailer’s efforts to change the focus of its brands, reduce credit sales from high-risk areas and re-phase its mailing programme impacted sales. “However, we have improved the quality and profitability of our sales,” she said.

 JD Williams brand sales were down 3% in the 26 weeks to August 30 but new customers were up 20% for this season to date.

Sales at Simply Be increased 4% while rising 10% at Jacamo. N Brown opens its latest dual-branded Simply Be/Jacamo store on Oxford Street on Wednesday.  Store like-for-like sales increased 17% in the half. 

Online sales represented 58% of the total, and increased 1% year on year, driven by online recruitment.

N Brown said its “transitional year” was progressing well. Home and gift sales were down 9%, with improved profitability, owing to planned reduction in non-core home and electrical ranges.

Marketing investment in catalogues was reduced by 24% as spend was moved into customer recruitment.

The retailer has in recent months unveiled Lorraine Kelly and Kelly Brook as brand ambassadors for JD Williams and Simply Be respectively.

It said its systems development programme is on track, now led by new chief information officer Andy Haywood.

Financial income was down 1% in the half owing to lower charges.

 N Brown said it remains on track to deliver its year-end forecast.

Spindler said: “During the second quarter we have sharply accelerated the pace of our drive to be the global retailer famous for making shopping for fashion easy and enjoyable regardless of size. We have pushed on with our programme of far-reaching change aimed at modernising the way we operate and how we go to market, equipping the business to capitalise on the attractive long-term opportunities we see in our space. 

“The combined effect of changes to our category focus, the planned reduction in credit sales from high-risk areas and the reduction and re-phasing of our mailing programme has reduced revenues in the half, however, we have improved the quality and profitability of our sales. 

 “I am pleased with progress so far; the team is implementing the plan effectively, delivering our differentiated offer for customers and continuing N Brown’s record of strong financial performance. With a strong activity plan for the second half we are on track to deliver our full year forecast.”