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USC pushes button on store revamps

Branded young fashion chain USC is to invest millions in rejigging and refurbishing its entire store portfolio.

The move follows a trial of its new format, which resulted in solid like-for-like uplifts, helping the business to record flat EBITDA of £3.1m for the year ended January 31.

USC said after the successful refurbishments at its Gateshead MetroCentre and Blackburn stores at the end of last year, it would relocate its footwear departments to the front of all of its 39 stores and create dedicated denim departments in key positions. The refurbishments are due to be completed by June.

A spokesman for the chain said denim and footwear were its “unique selling points”, hence the renewed focus on the categories.

The spokesman added that USC would increase the number of brands it stocked but reduce the SKUs per brand. It has already added Polo Ralph Lauren, HL Jeans, Lavenham and Rock Boutique for spring 11.

“Our core brands will always be our core brands but what we want to do is shake the mix up a bit and bring new blood in,” he said.

The spokesman pointed out that USC now sells more than 30 footwear brands including Fred Perry, Red Wing, Adidas and Nicholas Deakins.

Separately, USC will open three stores before autumn 11. The locations are yet to be finalised. The openings are part of broader company plans to open between three and five stores annually.

USC is due to report its full 2010 results imminently.

Sir Tom Hunter’s West Coast Capital investment vehicle, which owns USC, itself moved back into the black in the year to January 31. The group reported a £7.6m pre-tax profit compared with a £40m loss the previous year.

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