New N Brown boss Angela Spindler is plotting the home shopping group’s European expansion as it pushes the button on its UK store roll-out.
“There’s a big European opportunity over the next few years. I’m deciding where we should focus,” Spindler told Retail Week.
The retailer has been fine-tuning its US operations, its most established overseas business. Spindler, who took over from Alan White in July, said the US would act as a blueprint for further expansion.
Spindler said N Brown had tweaked its US model where it has already gained “critical mass” but its retention rate is “lower than we would like”. It has improved its website and reduced its delivery times from 10 to seven days and has experienced positive results since the changes.
N Brown is to push ahead with its UK store roll out following the success of its seven trial stores for Simply Be and Jacamo, which it started to open in 2011.
It has hired a property manager to fill its pipeline and is plotting 25 dual fascia stores which Spindler said would cover 85% of the population.
Sales from the stores hit £3.4m in N Brown’s first half and losses were £1m. However, the retailer said the stores broke even on a contribution level because of the “halo” effect of online sales from customers who live in the vicinity of the store.
Spindler said brand awareness is 10% higher in areas surrounding stores.
The retailer is eyeing shops in prime locations with high footfall such as Leeds White Rose and Manchester Arndale. Spindler said the Body Mass Index of the population within catchment areas was one of the criteria looked at when pinpointing suitable locations.
N Brown pre-tax profit, before fair value adjustments, jumped 7.1% to £45m in its first half to August 31 as sales increased 8% to £409.6m. Like-for-like sales rose by 7.8% over the period and have continued to grow in the five weeks to October 5, increasing 8%.