Home shopping group N Brown’s like-for-likes edged up 2.5% in its first quarter as moves to modernise its brands pay off.

Total sales rose 2.6% but Simply Be sales increased 6% and Jacamo’s rose 10%. Store like-for-likes surged 20%. It opened seven further Simply Be/Jacamo stores over the quarter.

As a result of the re-phasing of its marketing investment, performance across the group has strengthened during the end of the quarter, reaching high single digits in the last six weeks of the period.

Online sales hit 58% of all sales during the quarter, which N Brown said was fuelled by service improvements, including the introduction of Sunday deliveries.

N Brown chief executive Angela Spindler said: “We are in a period of transition to move us toward our mission to be ‘the leading global retailer famous for making shopping for fashion easy and enjoyable regardless of size’. 

“We have stepped up the pace of change and we are making progress.  We are modernising the business, broadening our appeal and refocusing on our differentiated proposition - fashion that fits.  Best of all our customers are already noticing these improvements, as we can see from the performance through the quarter.  We have improved the quality of our sales and are on track with our plans for the year as a whole”. 

N Brown has strengthened its product mix by shifting away from high ticket electricals and ranges that attract disproportionate levels of bad debt. This has reduced revenue over the quarter and N Brown expects a £13m sales hit over the year, but its gross margin and bad debt has improved.

It plans to recover sales through its home and gift categories, which were up 10% in the quarter.

N Brown has also moved to “in-season”, rather than “pre-season” marketing as it moves to “multichannel processes”. It has cut spending on direct mail and upped investment in digital customer recruitment. 

It is also modernising one of its biggest brands JD Williams and will relaunch the brand during the autumn. It has made its product and presentation more contemporary and has adjusted its marketing to broaden its appeal including hiring Lorraine Kelly as its brand ambassador.

It has rephrased marketing spend to coincide with the relaunch leading to JD Williams sales dipping 1% in the quarter.

N Brown also introduced a cash payment option over the quarter and 30% of new customers are opting to pay by cash, in line with its expectations. 

The retailer said it expects to see a step-up in recruitment because of the move.

Meanwhile, demand in its US business rose 15%. N Brown now has an international team in place to drive its sales in the country and last month launched various online marketing initiatives. It expects to have launched a credit offer and loyalty scheme by the end of June to drive customer order values and retention levels.