N Brown profits rise to £96.9m in “robust” year


Internet and catalogue home shopping retail business N Brown Group recorded a rise in underlying sales and profits during its last financial year, despite capital investments and a hit to margins.

Its full-year results published today show that pre-tax profits rose 2.5 per cent in the 53 weeks to March 3rd 2012 to total £96.9 million, although once fair value adjustments to foreign exchange contracts are excluded this figure drops to £94.5 million – down from £98.2 million last year.

Operating profit for the business, which operates retail chains such as large-sized specialist High & Mighty and lingerie business Figleaves, also fell by £600,000 year-on-year due to associated cost of launching new Simply Be concept stores and expanding internationally.

Increased promotional activity and rising input prices cut gross margin by 0.8 per cent to end the year at 53 per cent, however the business can be pleased that although consumer spending become increasingly squeezed over the 12 months its like-for-like (LFL) trading grew 1.6 per cent.

Lord Alliance of Manchester, Chairman of N Brown, said: “We are pleased to announce another robust set of results despite a difficult trading environment where our customers have seen their discretionary income become increasingly hard-pressed.

“We have continued to focus on our multi-channel strategy, investing in our online trading platform, whilst also expanding our international activities.”

Online sales now represent 50 per cent of total trading for the group following a 16 per cent growth to £377 million during the year.

International expansion of the Simply Be brand in the US led to a six-fold increase in sales to £4.8 million and over the next year the retailer hopes to trial both its Marisota and Jacamo brands on Simply Be‘s American website.

Both Figleaves and High & Mighty are the subject of turnaround strategies at present, and while the former managed to post its first profit in 13 years over in the 12 months ending in March, the latter cut its losses to just £200,000.

In the first eight weeks of this new financial year LFL sales across the group were up 0.6 per cent year-on-year, and Lord Alliance believes that the business is positioning itself well to continue to effectively appeal to the under-serviced middle-aged and plus-size customer groups.

Alan White, CEO of N Brown, commented: “Looking ahead, our multi-channel strategy, combined with our focus on niche customers and products and the flexibility of our business model will look to overcome the challenging macro-economic conditions.

“The board remains confident that we will continue to make progress this year.”