As home shopping group N Brown unveiled a 7.9% like-for-like jump over the Christmas period, Retail Week speaks to its chief executive Alan White about what has driven its steller performance and what the New Year holds.
RW: What’s driven your strong Christmas sales?
AW: Even the board is wondering why we’re doing so well this year! We’ve got a number of things right. There’s been a step change at JD Williams and Fashion World and we’ve been investing in online to make it easier to use.
There’s more for us to go for online. We’re starting to have genuine fast fashion on site and have extended our range.
Have you seen the benefit of the lower prices which you introduced last year?
It’s been very important in home and gift. We’ve seen big volume uplifts. They’re areas where there is more comparability in terms of price in products like perfume, bedding and electricals.
Our prices have been a little bit higher than average in those areas, the logic being that our customers buy on credit so price is not as important. However, over half of our customers don’t use any credit product so we needed to try to make it better. We’re still not the cheapest on the market but we’re matching the high street. We’ve seen a big increase in volume.
In fashion we had pretty mixed results at first but autumn worked well. I think we’ve found a good balance between value and margin.
What was top seller over the period?
The onesie was one trend that came from nowhere. We had incredible sales. Very few retailers did them in larger sizes.
With online sales growing apace, will the catalogue hold less importance for N Brown?
We use the catalogues as an online driver. Things like “for more kettles visit online”. We’ve cut down on our mid-season mailings and have reduced our paper costs by 10% so far this year which is a big saving. It means that money can be invested into our online system and marketing.
What do you think 2013 holds for retail?
We’re going into 2013 with a much stronger customer database. We’ve started the year with momentum and success breeds success. I don’t think we’re in a much better place economically. Any retailer that does well will do so through self-help.