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Cold spell dampens N Brown's like-for-likes

Like-for-like sales at home shopping group N Brown rose 1.2% over the Christmas period but the cold snap took its toll on trading.

Like-for-likes were up 1.2%, excluding sales from lingerie etailer Figleaves which N Brown bought for £11.5m in June, for the 19 weeks to January 8. Total sales increased by 4.6%.

The home shopping group said sales tailed off after mid-December as customers becamed concerned that their Christmas orders would not arrive on time. N Brown also said the despatch of its catalogues and statements were delayed over the last four weeks of the period as the snow set in. It expected to recover sales when its marketing materials arrived with customers.

Menswear and footwear experienced strong growth, as did the outsized womenswear brand Marisota and plus-sized menswear brand Jacamo.

Online sales rose by 26% over the trading period and now account for 47% of group sales.

The rate of gross margin also improved, increasing by 1.2% year-on-year. The improvement was driven by higher product margins, due to less discounting, and further reductions in the charge for bad debts.

The board said it was confident it could deliver performance in line with its expectations for its financial year ending February 2011.

N Brown was cautious about the year ahead and the affect inflation would have on sales.

It said: “Looking further ahead the combination of pressure on customers’ disposable income and significant cost inflation makes consumer expenditure more difficult to judge.”

The home shopping group said it would target online trading and international expansion for growth.

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