But sales climb
Losses widened at House of Fraser as like-for-like sales fell by 2.5 per cent. For the 26 weeks to July 29, HoF reported a£9.3 million loss before tax (excluding exceptional costs of£2.3 million) compared with£4.4 million for the same period last year.

Sales increased to£452.4 million from£420.3 million last year. This was helped by the added revenues from the acquisition of Jenners (with 4 stores) in April last year and Beatties (with 11 stores) in August 2005. The integration of the two department store chains was substantially complete, ahead of schedule.

With Jenners and Beatties taken into account, like-for-like sales fell 2.5 per cent. However, the second half has started better, with like-for-like sales for the first eight weeks up 3.3 per cent compared with the same period last year. However, the company noted that 2005 sales in this period were weak.

House of Fraser is being bought by Highland Acquisitions, an investment vehicle led by Baugur for 148p a share in cash, valuing the company at£351.4 million. The company conceded that the offer process had been a distraction.

'Despite a tough period of trading we have continued to achieve a great deal across the business - bringing in new and exciting brands and ranges across all our stores, relaunching our private label Linea, integrating Jenners and Beatties and continuing our programme of low-cost refurbishments,' said HoF chief executive John Coleman.

The company introduced lines including All Saints, Sahara and Lipsy in Womenswear, Bench and Amplified in Menswear, Versace and Cynthia Rowley in Accessories, Urban Decay and Dermaglow in Beauty and Gordon Ramsay and Sophie Conran in Home.

'It is testament to our employees that they have strengthened the overall customer proposition and business model, despite the distractions of the offer process. This is reflected in our good current trading figures,' he added.

The Group plans to open new stores in Belfast, High Wycombe and a move for the Bristol store scheduled for 2008. A store in Chester is planned for 2010.