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Hobbs losses widen in turnaround year

Womenswear retailer Hobbs widened its losses to £15.6m for the year to January 31, as the company continues its turnaround plan.

The retailer said performance improved in the fourth quarter, after changes implemented from the second half of the year began to take hold.

The retailer made a loss of £15.6m for the 12 months to January, compared with £14m in the previous year. Its sales increased from £115.4m to £116.5m during the period.

Hobbs closed five stores and four concessions during the period, and has made further provisions of £1.3m for store closures.

It spent £289,000 in legal fees and £534,000 on redundancies at its head office during the year.

Former John Lewis director of fashion Meg Lustman joined as Hobbs chief executive on September 1, following the resignation of Nicky Dulieu in April 2014. Former New Look boss Phil Wrigley returned to his role as non-executive chairman.

Phase Eight buying and merchandising director Claire Pearl was appointed to the same role at Hobbs in January this year, to replace Helen Williamson.

The company, owned by private equity firm 3i, said the UK market remains “highly competitive” and the economic backdrop remains uncertain, despite showing some signs of improvement.

It said the early signs of the turnaround plan are encouraging as margin rates, stock efficiency and sell through have all improved for the spring 15 season.

An industry source told Drapers that Meg Lustman is starting to turn the business around and the reception to the latest ranges has been good.

A department store buyer said: “Looking at autumn 15, the product looks fantastic, the price points are more realistic and the ranges are looking really good. They are co-ordinating better so you don’t get the mismatch of a top that doesn’t work under the jacket.

“Its most direct rival is now LK Bennett, which is getting so expensive in comparison.”

@Tara_Hounslea

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