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Whistles sales on the up, says Shepherdson

Whistles chief executive Jane Shepherdson has said sales have been on an upward curve at the premium womenswear chain after customers responded well to new collections.

Shepherdson, the former Topshop brand director who joined Whistles in January 2008, told Drapers that sales in the current financial year, which began in February, were up on the previous year and up on those forecast, as the business grows in confidence following a repositioning away from its boho roots towards a contemporary and minimal handwriting.

Figures filed at Companies House this week reported a £5.1m pre-tax loss for the year ended January 31, 2009 - its first 12 months under Shepherdson’s leadership and a tumultuous period for the business. Sales were £35.2m and gross profit margin was 59%, leading to gross profit for the period of £20.9m.

Distribution costs and administrative expenses were £24.3m - 69% of total sales.

Shepherdson told Drapers: “It was well documented at the time that we had a disastrous year in 2008. We lost our backers, we lost our working finance and our forward hedge and we had to restructure.”

Whistles was hived off from the now-defunct Mosaic Fashions group in 2008 by its former backer, Icelandic investor Baugur, which appointed Shepherdson to her role. In the year that followed, the Icelandic banking collapse forced Whistles to restructure before Baugur eventually hit the buffers in February 2009.

Shepherdson said that the first full collection to carry the new handwriting she had developed only hit stores for autumn 09.

She said: “The thing about a business and putting together a collection is that you need confidence to fulfil your plans. We are where we want to be now. We are starting to extend ranges and introduce new products and collaborations with creatives in the industry”. She added that the undisclosed collaborations would filter through for autumn 10.

In January this year, Whistles appointed Phil Mickler, formerly of denim brand Diesel, as finance director, while Jonathan Byrne, a representative from Whistles’ Icelandic bank Glitnir, was appointed to the board.

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