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N Brown cuts JD Williams B&M team

Multichannel business N Brown is streamlining the buying and merchandising team for its plus-size womenswear brand JD Williams, resulting in at least 21 redundancies.

The team now consists of 327 people, down from 348. The business is now in a period of consultation, which started in April. However, Drapers understands any further changes will be minimal. It is not known which roles are affected.

The move is part of N Brown’s efforts to transform from a catalogue to a digital-first retailer. Investment in this, alongside weak trading over the warm autumn period, caused the group’s statutory pre-tax profit to fall 21.2% from £96.8m to £76.3m for the year to February 28.

Chief executive Angela Spindler told Drapers: “Web is a priority now and we are building a digital organisation.

“We have made some headcount reductions and simplified the buying proposition. We have simplified how we select our ranges and how they are presented to suit the web.”

Spindler said N Brown introduced merchandisers into the group under merchandise and central operations director Ralph Tucker after he joined the business in July last year.

“We didn’t have a separate merchandising function in the business,” she explained. “Online is top of our agenda, so we needed to be faster and to have something new constantly online. We needed to change the way we do things, so we have introduced a more tech-savvy process under one strong leader with a digital background.”

Tucker was previously head of online merchandising at Sainsbury’s and product director of clothing and footwear at Shop Direct.

Spindler said N Brown, which also includes plus-size womenswear brand Simply Be, plus-size menswear brand Jacamo and lingerie etailer Figleaves.com, has invested in mobile optimisation, new IT software and improved personalisation over the last 12 months.

As a result, it has transformed from a “completely direct-mail first” operation in terms of buying, merchandising, marketing and skill sets into an online business.

Online sales rose 62% during the fourth quarter and 59% for the year to February 28.

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