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Joules ploughs ahead with US expansion despite uncertainty

British lifestyle brand Joules is continuing to grow its market share in the US, brushing off any political and economic uncertainty.

The US and Germany are two focus markets for Joules, which recorded a 39.3% growth in its international sales for the 26 weeks to 27 November compared with the same period last year.

Chief executive Colin Porter said: “We are following activity [in the US] like most other people by the day or even by the hour but so far our wholesale arrangements are not seeing any impact. We have a good order book for spring 17 and we’ve been selling autumn 17 for the last few weeks. So far, so good.”

Joules launched in 50 of US department store chain Dillard’s 330 stores for autumn 16 and is expanding into 60 Nordstrom stores with wellingtons and outerwear for spring 17, after launching online.

The company has also started the process of bringing its US distribution in house, which will be effective from spring 18.

Porter acknowledged that Joules is not “immune to the challenges of currency fluctuations”, particularly as it sources goods mainly in China, but said the business is “in a good place”: ”We have a team of 40 in our Shanghai office who work closely with our supply base and we have hedged for the next 18 months, so we know where we stand.”

He said Joules would hold the selling price on any key lines and keep the quality the same, but for any new products, the business would price appropriately: “There is more flexibility to choose the right price for a product then.”

In the UK, Porter said Joules was continuing its strategy to open between 10 and 12 new stores each year, and the next one was set to open in Plymouth.

“We are also focusing on store portfolio management so taking the opportunity to look at our stores when leases expire. We are relocating in the Mumbles [in Wales] and Stamford [Lincolnshire] over the next few months.”

Ecommerce is another area of strong growth: sales rose 30.3% for the first half to 27 November.

The firm launched a mobile-optimised site in September 2015 and Porter said the improvements are still bearing fruit: “50% of our traffic is now on mobile and our conversion rates increased from 1.8% to 2.4% over the six-month period.”

“We have also added improved payment options such as Paypal Express, more delivery options like Collect Plus and we’re seeing the early benefits of personalisation, which we’ll continue to build on.”

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