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La Senza hits expansion trail following return to profit

Lingerie chain La Senza is to open 10 additional stores this year and an average of 10 each following year after it returned to profit.

The retailer recorded £3.6m in pre-tax profit in the year to March 27, up from a loss of £7.6m the previous year. Sales fell 6% to £118.6m over the period but commercial director Beverley Williams said like-for-likes in the current financial year had been up every month except May, when volcanic ash caused delivery delays.

La Senza will open stores in Cheltenham, Bath and Canterbury by the end of September. It currently has 175 UK stores and 50 overseas franchise stores.

Williams also confirmed the retailer was searching for a chairman to oversee the business, which has been run by Williams and finance director Nick Mather since chief executive Rose Foster left in February 2009. There are no plans to appoint a new managing director or chief executive.

La Senza cut capital expenditure to £1m, down from £11m the previous year, which Williams said was a result of renegotiating leases and supplier deals and streamlining operations.

A reduction in discounting and a return to its core competencies of lingerie and nightwear also helped the retailer return to profit.

“A lot of our core customers felt the product had gone too young,” said Williams. “There is no point competing with supermarkets on price, so we have invested in styling and added more silk and detail.”

La Senza said it would now meet its financial operating requirements and covenants for the years ending April 2, 2011 and April 1, 2012, following private equity firm Lion Capital’s acquisition of 100% of the retailer’s long-term debt in January.

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