The once vulnerable House of Fraser has hailed a profit for the first time in 10 years thanks to strong online trading and refinancing under new owner Sanpower.
The department store retailer recorded pre-tax profit of £1.3m in the year to 30 January, which compares to a £2.9m loss in the same period. Online sales at the British chain leaped almost 27% following improvements in its delivery services and website.
“This was driven by continued progress across both our online and bricks and mortar stores, despite the volatile trading environment in the final quarter of fiscal year 2016," said CEO Nigel Oddy.
“We have continued to invest in our business throughout the year, strengthening our multichannel proposition and enhancing our store environments with six extensive store refurbishments completed in the year."
Oddy added that investment will continue in the next financial year, in which the British chain plans to overhaul further stores and continue to develop its IT and ecommerce capabilities with £40m.
Over the next few weeks the brand's first overseas website will be launched in Australia, a market that is becoming increasingly attractive for fashion retailers, and one which Oddy cited as housing the biggest spenders on the House of Fraser site.
“It’s been a challenging trading environment since the turn of the year," added Oddy.
"What’s been good is this slightly more spring like weather and that’s helped us. But there’s a general lack of confidence among consumers in the UK at the moment. Partly that’s about Brexit and general economic uncertainty and what’s happening with exchange rates. As long as customers feel an element of uncertainty we know from experience that customers don’t tend to shop quite as much.”
House of Fraser’s new owners are also ambitious abouth growth across China, where the first store will open later the year in and likely followed by one in Xuzhou next year.
“We will be bringing a quintessentially British department store with western brands,” said Oddy.