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Losses grow as Liberty invests in its own label

Losses at London department store Liberty rose to £3.6 million for the year to December 31 2007, blamed on increased investment in its Liberty of London own brand.

Sales rose by 4% to £45.8m for the year and sales at the flagship store in London’s Regent Street, including sales from concessions, rose 2% to £38.3m.

Last year Liberty invested £3.5m in its own-brand venture, compared with £2m in 2006, which adversely affected profits. However, the Liberty of London brand gained momentum during the year, with sales up 8% to £3.2m. A Liberty of London standalone store will open in Sloane Street in London this summer.

Liberty said the Liberty of London project was a long-term venture and that it did not expect the label to generate positive profit returns for the next few years.

The retailer said womenswear sales fell last year, but this was partly offset by an improved performance in menswear, where sales rose 18% to £4.6m over the year.

Chief executive Geoffroy de la Bourdonnaye said: “The menswear performance was strong because the product, store environment and service were all right.

“For womenswear we will buy deeper into a smaller number of key brands, including Dries Van Noten, Maison Martin Margiela, Alexander McQueen, See by Chloé and Anglomania. We are trying to upgrade the customer service in womenswear, which could involve more staff training.”

The company will also launch a transactional website in June, which will sell Liberty of London product plus exclusive brands.
De la Bourdonnaye said: “The plan for the website is to offer an edited version of the store operation – something similar to Net-a-Porter. It’s amazing how many people buy luxury product online, so we feel it’s a good growth opportunity for us.”

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