French Connection posts 6th year of losses despite improvement

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French Connection

French Connection has posted annual losses for the sixth consecutive year in a row despite improvement on the previous year.

Losses at the fashion retailer narrowed to £2.3 million in the year to January 31, while like-for-like sales edged up 0.8 per cent across the UK and Europe.

Its wholesale arm helped offset losses, seeing an 8.8 per cent rise in revenues over the same period.

The high street chain also pulled the shutters on 11 loss-making stores, while opening a new concept store in Manchester.

The news comes amid a turbulent time for both the retail industry and French Connection. The retailer has been battling losses for years.

Last year investors Gatemore Capital gave the company’s controversial leader Stephen Marks, who acts as both chairman and chief executive, and ultimatum to relinquish his dual role.

Marks, who owns a 42 per cent stake in the company, has pushed back against stark criticism of both him and his board, and is driving forward a turnaround plan.

“We have made considerable progress across the group over the last year and I enter the new financial year with renewed confidence off the back of that success,” he said.

“Our goal has been to return the group to profitability and I believe we are very close to achieving that aim, given the momentum that we are currently seeing within the business.

“While it is clear that the retail market in which we are operating in the UK is unlikely to improve in the near future, we have clear visibility on the benefits we will obtain from the ongoing portfolio rationalisation.”

Gatemore subsequently sold its shares in the retailer after Marks refused to meet their demands.

Their stake in the retailer was sold to Sports Direct’s Mike Ashley, subsequently upping his stake from 11 per cent to 27 per cent.

Ashley has a reputation for buying shares in his rival retailers, and now owns a 29.7 per cent stake in Debenhams, sparking speculation of an imminent takeover.

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