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Joules expansion on track as it opens 99th UK store

Joules opened its 99th UK store in Solihull on Saturday, as the lifestyle brand continues its five-year plan to grow in the UK and overseas.

“We are about 15 months into our five-year strategy and we are very much to plan,” said founder and chief executive Tom Joule, who launched the business in Market Harborough in 1989.

“Our focus with LDC [the private equity arm of Lloyds Banking Group, which invested £22m in Joules in November 2013] is to grow each distribution channel in all our markets, and we’re performing very well.”

The British business said revenue increased by 21% to £96.3m in its most recent results for the year to May 25, 2014, and profit before tax and exceptional items was up 23.3% to £5.1m.

It opened 15 stores since May, continuing what Joule described as a “considered retail strategy”. He added: “Lots of people are saying growth is online and our online [offer] is very strong, but we find stores are geographically important from a click-and-collect perspective and so that customers can return products.”

However, the rate of store openings is slowing and Joule said a long-term target would be in the region of 150 stores in the UK. Coastal and market locations are important to the business, as are travel locations in airports and train stations. Joules has a store in Gatwick Airport and has just won a tender to open in Stansted in September this year.

Joules has around 500 wholesale accounts, including John Lewis and Next, as well as independent retailers. Wholesale makes up approximately a third of the overall business and sales were up 5% in the year to May 25.

“We have pulled back from some countrywear and garden centres and replaced these with accounts more suited to the brand as it is today,” said Joule. “We have become more contemporary and more relevant as an attainable, aspirational brand for people with a bit more time. Our customer group has grown.”

Ecommerce sales make up 34% of retail sales and Joules will launch a new website on July 27, updated to be easier to navigate and with a new look.

“We have a very interactive customer base with over 250,000 Facebook fans. This will make it easier for us to engage with our customers from a social perspective on the site,” he said.

International sales were up by 44% during the year and are up a further 74% in the new financial year to date, driven by strong performance in the US and Germany. International now accounts for over 10% of the business, said Joule.

“We are in several department stores now including Nordstrom [in the US]. They trialled us online and we will be in selected stores for autumn 15, which is very exciting for us,” he said.

The brand and retailer brought its German distribution in-house last year and has grown sales in the country since then.

“We brought in German-speaking teams – distributing everything from central UK – and we think there is lots more opportunity there.”

@Tara_Hounslea

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