N Brown fights back as High Street muscles in

Mail order specialist N Brown is not ready to throw in the towel, despite suffering the double blow of a resurgent High Street and shrinking customer base.

Chief executive Alan White conceded the agency catalogue model was in decline, but said direct home shopping, which accounts for about 4 per cent of total UK retail sales, continued to offer growth potential.

White insisted: 'There will continue to be a strong place for home shopping within the retail mix.'

Although the retailer increased market share, it suffered its first profits setback in a decade on the back of difficult trading conditions and over zealous cost-cutting measures.

'In an attempt to drive profitability, we cut out a number of unprofitable ranges, but with hindsight we underestimated the cumulative impact they had on the look and feel of catalogues,' said White.

N Brown's catalogues include the JD Williams and Ambrose Williams titles, aimed at the over 50s sector and offering clothing ranges up to a size 40. White aims to lower the age profile and reach the 35-plus market with a more fashionable offer.

White said N Brown had formerly underestimated the speed at which customers were adopting the latest fashion trends and the retailer is meeting the demand with monthly 'specialogues', carrying a 15 per cent proportion of new product.

N Brown's preliminary profits fell from£59 million to£54.8 million on turnover of£457.3 million.