N Brown, the home shopping group which owns Simply Be and JD Williams, saw group revenue rise 16.6% to £610.9m for the year ended March 1, equating to a like-for-like sales rise of 12.5%. Ecommerce sales rose by 50% to £168.8m representing 28% of group sales against 22% last year.
The group saw womenswear sales rise 18% over the year thanks to wider choice of size fittings, designer tie-ups and more branded stock. Footwear sales rose 12% and menswear, which accounts for 8% of the business, saw sales grow by 24%. N Brown said it saw future opportunities in the menswear market as a result of the recorded growth in the category.
Gross margin fell back slightly by 0.3% to 55.3% but N Brown said it had planned for this as it altered customer and product mixes.
Current sales remain strong but gross margin was down 0.4% for the eight weeks to April 26. N Brown said it expected gross margin to be down by this level for the rest of the year because it was actively targeting new customers and building on its younger brands for the 30-45 year old age group.
The board said they were confident N Brown would outperform the retail sector through 2009 despite the current economic climate. N Brown chairman, Lord Alliance of Manchester, said: "The age and socio-demographic distribution of our customer database, coupled with the potential from the roll-out of our new brands, gives us a firm foundation for the year. The upward trend in online penetration will also continue to deliver incremental demand and cost savings, complementing the ongoing development of catalogues and product ranges."
Chief executive Alan White added: "The key to our excellent results has been the strength of our various brands, from the established successes such as Simply Be and JD Williams to the newly-launched Marisota and Jacamo. We are continuously looking to improve the quality of our catalogues and websites and increase our product ranges to make our brand offering even more attractive. The strategy we have in place, together with our strong management and operational team, means we are well positioned to deliver another good performance this year."