Liberty recovery in sight

Department store business Liberty is winning the battle to return its landmark West End store to profitability and will launch an extensive range of own-brand merchandise later this year.

Liberty childrenswear and accessories will arrive in-store in early autumn, followed by an edited range of own-label ladieswear and menswear.

In the six months to 28 December 2002 Liberty, owned by Retail Stores, slashed pre-tax losses from last year's£13 million deficit to£1.5 million.

However the combined effects of the Iraq war and continued closure of the Central Line have hit sales in recent weeks.

Sales over the period increased by almost 10 per cent to£26 million, bolstered by strong Christmas and New Year trading. The figures reflect for the first time the full impact of the revamped Regent House store and the ground- floor refurbishment of the Tudor building.

Footfall also increased by an estimated 40 per cent since the relaunch 12 months ago.

Executive chairman Richard Balfour-Lynn said the store's redesign had been a success.

He said: 'The exciting range of branded luxury good presented in a modern retailing environment has proved popular. The increased footfall has heightened awareness and drawn more customers into the rest of the store.'

The management team was strengthened last autumn with the appointment of Iain Renwick as chief executive and Whistles founder Lucille Lewin as creative director.