Home shopping group N Brown is scaling back catalogues as online sales soar.

Chief executive Alan White, who is leaving the retailer in June after 10 years as chief executive, said the number of catalogue pages produced last year fell from 24billion to 22billion - the first time there has been such a reduction.

“While that doesn’t seem a lot, in 25 years it has only ever gone up,” said White.

N Brown, which owns brands including Simply Be and Jacamo, increased online sales by 15% to £424m in the year to March 2. White said the associated benefits are lower customer recruitment costs and that online customers spend more.

“A customer online spends £76 on average, which is 25% higher than over the telephone,” he said.

Older customers were more cautious over the year. Sales to the over-50s edged up 1% compared to a 15% rise among 30- to 50-year-olds.

White said: “Those [older] customers were hit by the inflationary high, the low interest rates on savings and their disposable incomes were squeezed. By nature they are more conservative. It they hear the Eurozone is coming to an end, they decided to sit on their hands.”

The retailer, which launched a store trial for online womenswear brand Simply Be and menswear specialist Jacamo in late 2011, said it is on the hunt for more shops.

White said N Brown will push ahead with dual-branded stores, which have performed better than standalone Simply Be shops. It is looking at locations outside the North and Midlands, where the existing shops are.

N Brown experienced a 6% jump in online sales in the areas where it has stores. “There’s an online halo effect,” White said.

The retailer posted pre-tax profit up 2.6% to £96.4m in the year, on sales up 6% to £784.7m.

In the seven weeks to April 20, like-for-likes advanced 6.1%.  White said N Brown’s broad portfolio and product range was beneficial, especially during the recent cold weather when womenswear “suffered”.