New Look chief executive Anders Kristiansen has hinted that the retailer is “strong enough” to make another attempt at a stock market flotation, but said the decision rests with its private equity owners.
Kristiansen said the chain, which pulled out a planned initial public offering (IPO) in 2010 amid turbulent financial markets, was in a “strong position” regarding trading and would not rule out a possible flotation either this year or next.
“It’s up to Apax and Permira to take that decision; it’s my job to ensure we have a perfect state for an IPO and we’re working on that every day. I can’t say if it will be this year or next year but I’m fulfilling my part.”
Private equity firms Apax and Permira bought a majority stake in New Look for £800m in 2004. Apax declined to comment and Permira did not respond to a request for comment.
The retailer, which today reported a 1.7% drop in sales for the three months to December 27, will continue to focus on menswear in 2015, and expects low double-digit growth in the category this year.
Kristiansen told Drapers: “It’s an area I’m so passionate about. Menswear is 3.8% of sales at the moment, but in stores that have the latest shopfit sales have doubled. New Look is not known as a destination for menswear, but we are launching a marketing campaign later this year to change that. We’ll be finding our feet this year, so I’d expect low double-digit growth but we need to accelerate much faster after that.”
New Look is also continuing its push into China and plans to open 50 stores there in its next financial year (starting in April), making it the retailer’s second biggest market, after the UK, in terms of bricks-and-mortar stores. This year, the retailer opened 18 Chinese stores and it will open two more before March. It will also open three more stores in Poland and two shops in France in the next few months.
New Look will relocate five or six UK stores next year and take its current retail portfolio from 803 shops worldwide to 860.
Christmas trading at New Look was strong with like-for-like sales up 4.1% for the seven weeks to January 3. The retailer said the quarter was a “tale of two halves” with “a robust performance” over Christmas making up for lost sales during the warm weather in October and November.
Kristiansen said: “Although October and November were affected by unseasonably warm weather, we grew market share in the period and our Christmas trading figures are testament to the quality of our product and continued investment in our multichannel offer.”
Party dresses and check patterns across dresses, scarves and shirts sold well pre-Christmas, while the “significantly increased” denim offer has been selling well for spring 15.
He added: “We remain cautious for 2015, but we have a great offer and in terms of value fashion we are less dependent on the economy. New Look will do well in tough times.”