£80m bonanza for shareholders
Home shopping company N Brown Group revealed group sales rose 14.2 per cent for the 21 weeks to January 20 and the retailer is confident it will meet full-year expectations.

The clothing-to-electricals catalogue retailer also unveiled plans for an£80 million one-off return of cash to shareholders, equivalent to 27p for each ordinary share.

Home shopping sales were up 14.8 per cent and like-for-likes increased 10.8 per cent for the 21-week period. Online sales rocketed 43 per cent, compared with last year.

The company said: 'We continue to see strong levels of growth in all key customer groups and product ranges. Sales from our established customers have been ahead of expectations and the recruitment of new customers has been on target, enhancing our customer database.'

The mix of customers and products, combined with a detrimental change to the VAT rules for bad debt relief, resulted in gross margin 1.8 per cent behind last year in the second half to date. However, the company said operational cost savings have offset the impact of this lower gross margin.

The retailer also revealed it will make a£15 million contribution to its pension fund in March, with a further£12 million phased over the next three years. This will eliminate the current deficit of£26.8 million.

N Brown chief executive Alan White said: 'Today we announced a trading update that shows a continued strong performance across the business, despite a tough retail environment.

'Over the past few years, we have worked hard on our strategy to refocus the company on its core home shopping business. I am pleased that this has resulted in strong growth for N Brown in both turnover and operating profit.'