Internet and catalogue home shopping group N Brown Group Plc today (1 May) said it is “confident” in its outlook for 2012 after posting a 2.5% rise in pre-tax profits for the full-year to March 3, 2012.
The retailer, which owns plus-size brands High & Mighty and Simply Be, has said it is pleased with what it described as a “solid performance” in a difficult trading environment having posted pre-tax profits of £96.9m (US$157m) in the year to 3 March, while total group revenue climbed 4.8% to £753.2m. Like-for-like sales grew by 1.6%.
Total group revenue increased by 4.8% to £753.2m during the period while like-for-like sales, excluding the non-comparable periods for newly-opened stores, the acquisition of Figleaves and the 53rd week, were up by 1.6%.
However, the retailer, which targets mature and larger customers through brands including Simply Be, Marisota and Jacamo, said like-for-like sales in the first eight weeks of its new financial year slowed to 0.6%.
N Brown said this slowdown in like-for-likes can be attributed to the earlier Easter break and unfavourable year-on-year weather conditions. Faced with rising input prices and falling disposable income, the retailer reduced prices and increased promotional activity to stimulate demand. This led to a 0.8% decline in gross margin rate to 53.0%.
Operating profit for the full-year was slightly down by £0.6m to £102.0m, after absorbing £5.2m of losses on opening the Simply Be concept stores and expanding internationally.
Lingerie etailer Figleaves, which was acquired by N Brown two years ago, made its first-ever full-year profit in its 13 year history while men’s plus-sized brand High & Mighty opened three new stores and reduced its losses to £0.2m. Online sales of £377m also accounted for 50% of total sales for the first time, it said.
N Brown chief executive Alan White said: “We have delivered a solid performance for the year, driven by the development of multi-channel trading and new product ranges.The highlights include increased online penetration, strong growth in our younger titles and our expansion into stores and international markets. We are particularly pleased to see Figleaves delivering its first ever profit, good sales growth from High & Mighty and by the performance of our Simply Be, Marisota and Jacamo brands.”
“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,” said chairman Lord Alliance of Manchester. ”We have continued to focus on our multi-channel strategy, investing in our online trading platform, whilst also expanding our international activities. Although we do not expect the market to materially improve, we believe consumer confidence will begin to pick up later this year and we are confident that our strategy will continue to deliver in 2012.”
N Brown said that its outlook for the year ahead is broadly positive but that it believes consumer confidence will remain fragile until the second half of the year when inflation and income growth become more balanced.
“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,” added White.
Looking ahead, plans include lower prices on autumn lines, and international expansion, especially in the US.