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N Brown sees growth ahead for Simply Be

Home shopping company N Brown is to expand its Simply Be plus-size catalogue by 50% and launch a homewares spin-off after the brand posted growth of more than 20% for the 21 weeks to January 20.

Chief executive Alan White told Drapers: "Simply Be was one of our star performers this year, so we will continue to expand it. It will increase towards 180 pages or more through 2007, from 120 pages at the moment. We're investing in footwear, lingerie and corsetry. These will be largely in-house labels, but some of the additional lingerie and footwear will be externally branded offers."

Simply Be will also expand with a new home and leisure goods catalogue called Simply Home. The book will be both online and print and will launch at the end of February.

N Brown's sales rose 14.2% for the 21 weeks to January 20, with home shopping sales up 14.8% in total and 10.8% on a like-for-like basis. Sales growth was driven by a 43% jump in online sales.

"We've done well in the catalogues aimed at younger and mid-life customers. Aside from Simply Be, we've also seen good growth from JD Williams," said White.

Despite a push on young fashion in the past year from both Littlewoods and Otto UK, White said N Brown was not planning to focus on young fashion. "Our speciality is plus sizes and there are plenty of young fashion companies already on the high street," he said. "With 10.8% like-for-like sales growth we're feeling pretty confident. We're taking market share off home shopping rivals and the retail market as a whole."

N Brown also announced an £80 million cash return to shareholders, as well as a £15 million special contribution to the pension fund next month.

White said: "This is the right balance of giving something back to shareholders while making sure we have enough to act on any acquisition opportunities."

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