Select ups the stakes in hunt for edgier fashion

Womenswear chain Select is now focusing on fashion rather than price, and has posted a plunge in pre-tax profits.

Marketing director Kim Priest said the 230-strong retailer had 'upped the ante' and improved its fashion offer, after struggling to compete with the likes of Peacocks and Primark on price.

The buying and merchandising teams have been bolstered and buyers are now briefed to find edgier product.

'We've changed the company focus and raised the fashion stakes,' said Priest. 'We still offer exceptional value for money, but we're more aspirational now.'

In the year to January 24, sales rose to£64.4 million from£61 million last year. However, pre-tax profit fell to£246,100 from£723,699.

Select director John Sunderland, a shareholder together with managing director Roger Pontin and commercial director Nigel Fisher, dismissed the fall in profits as nominal.

Sunderland said much had been done in the past year to improve the retailer's infrastructure, such as introducing a professional marketing team and increasing the number of shops. '(The company) has grown rapidly over several years. It has all been done organically, which demonstrates that something must be right,' he said.

Another 20 to 30 shops will open this year, while a 'substantial' amount of money will be invested in refits. A new store type is likely to open by the end of the year.

With venture capitalists hungry for the next deal, Select could be an attractive investment target. Although Sunderland is not actively looking for funding, he admitted the business had been approached. 'These things are always under consideration,' he said.