Lingerie retailer La Senza is back in the black and searching for a new chairman to help its future growth after sales and profits took an upward swing

In its full year to March 27 La Senza made a pre-tax profit of £3.6m after a loss of £7.6m the previous year. A reduction in the level of discounting and a return to its core strengths of lingerie and nightwear helped the retailer return to profit.

La Senza also cut capital expenditure to £1m, down from £11m the previous year, by renegotiating leases and supplier deals and streamlining warehouse and head office operations.

The retailer did suffer a sales drop of 6% to £118.6m for the year but commercial director Beverley Williams said sales had improved since, with like-for-likes up in every month except May, when the ash cloud caused delays to deliveries. Like-for-likes for July are up 5% so far.

The business, which has been led by Williams and finance director Nick Mather since February 2009, when chief executive Rose Foster left, is hoping to bring in a chairman to head the group. It is not, however, searching for a chief executive or managing director.

The business is facing stiff competition in the market, with former owner Theo Paphitis expected to open a new lingerie chain he is currently developing under the working name DNA Lingerie, and US lingerie chain Victoria’s Secret due to open its first UK store in 2012.

La Senza said it has been improving its ranges and said swimwear was a major growth area, with sales currently up 100% year-on-year, driven by the introduction of larger cup sizes.

“We lost a lot of our core customers, who felt the product had gone too young,” said Williams. “There is no point trying to compete with the supermarkets on price, so we have invested in styling and added more silk and more detail.”

The retailer said it will meet its financial operating requirements and covenants for the years ending April 2, 2011, and April 1, 2012, following private equity firm Lion Capital’s acquisition of 100% of the retailer’s long-term debt in January.

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