Operating profits up 13% to £3.6m
Billionaire tycoon Sir Tom Hunter's footwear chain Office bucked the trend in the struggling sector with soaring sales last year.

Online sales and consolidated manufacturing processes helped lift operating profits by 13 per cent to£3.6 million. Sales surged 33 per cent to£92.7 million for the year to January 28.

Chief executive Brian McCluskey told Retail Week: 'Given the doom and gloom surrounding the footwear market, it is a very strong performance.'

He said the retailer is poised to generate turnover of more than£100 million this year and profits are running ahead of last year.

Footwear specialists have been hit by increased competition from non-specialist rivals such as New Look and Primark. Last month alone, Clarks announced that it was axing its Ravel fascia and Stylo posted a loss of£7 million.

McCluskey conceded that current trading is 'tough' and like-for-likes are flat. 'Where we are making money is in margins,' he added.

He has shifted Office's production processes to higher-quality manufacturers in countries such as Spain, Brazil, Portugal and Italy. That decision has reduced the retailer's dependence on China. 'Stock moves much quicker and there is freshness in the supply chain,' said McCluskey.

He said that he is delighted with Office's online sales performance, following the relaunch of its transactional web site in October. The web site is generating£60,000 a week, compared with£35,000 prior to the relaunch. McCluskey wants to double that figure by Christmas.

Office has 72 outlets in the UK, 60 of which are standalone stores. The retailer will open three or four shops in the coming year. It has expanded rapidly in the two years since Hunter's acquisition of the company.