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N Brown grows profits as bad debts dwindle

Home shopping giant N Brown grew adjusted pre-tax profit 5.5% to £44.1m in the six months to August 28, boosted by the expansion of its Jacamo and Marisota brands and a reduction in bad debts .

Turnover increased 3.2% to £349.7m while like-for-likes were up 0.6%, excluding sales from the recent acquisitions of outsize menswear retailer High and Mighty and lingerie specialist Figleaves.

Current trading has improved, with like-for-likes up 2.1% in the six weeks to October 9. Total sales increased 5.1%.

In the six-month period, operating profit was up 4.5% to £46.2m.

The retailer, which specialises in outsize fashion, said it clocked up a strong performance in menswear, with sales up 28%. It cited Jacamo, which is targeted at larger 30 to 50-year old men, and Marisota, targeted as 50-plus women, as particularly strong performers.

Chief executive Alan White said the group had benefitted from “the strong growth in online sales, the expansion of Jacamo and Marisota, and the acquisition of Figleaves and High and Mighty.  We have also seen bad debts reduce significantly.  We have grown our share of the market, emphasising our strong position as the leading retailer in plus sizes in the UK.

 “We are also particularly excited by the launch of our [plus size womenswear] Simply Be brand in the US, as the first orders are starting to come through and we will look to drive sales forward in the second half of the year. We have a number of growth opportunities ahead and we are confident we will continue to make good progress for the full year.”

Chairman Lord Alliance of Manchester added: “We have had a good first half of the year, despite a difficult trading environment, and we are pleased to note that the positive trends have continued into the first six weeks of the second half.

“While there continues to be uncertainty surrounding the outlook for the sector, we are encouraged by the strong demand from our younger titles, the international performance of Simply Be Germany as well as the launch into the USA. The board remains confident that we will deliver a good performance for the full year.”

Online sales were up 17% to £150m and accounted for 43% of total revenues, compared with 38% last year.

Sales from our younger brands, targeted at customers under 45, have grown by 7% to £112m.

N Brown said its international strategy is to “target the major home shopping markets in the world where we see the best opportunity to utilise the brands, products and creative assets which already exist in our business”.

It said Simply Be Germany has had a “good season” while its move into the US market is “underway”.

It added: “We are optimistic that we can win a useful share of the $34 billion (£21.4 billion) market for outsize clothing in the USA.”

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