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N Brown full year profits rise 5.5%

N Brown, the home shopping giant, is to open standalone stores for its plus size Simply Be brand this year and said that full-year pre-tax profits rose by 5.5% to just shy of £100m.

The retailer achieved record profits of £98.2m, before tax and fair value adjustment, and total sales of £718.8m in the year ending February 26. Like-for-likes sales were up 1.3%.

Since the year end, like-for-likes have continued to rise, up 1.5% in the 10 weeks to May 7.

Simply Be stores

N Brown will open stores for its Simply Be catalogue and online brand and will trial three concept stores for the plus-size brand during the year. The move follows the home shopping group’s first foray into physical stores through its acquisition of the High & Mighty brand in September 2009.

N Brown put its first foot into the US last autumn launching Simply Be in the territory, which achieved sales of just under £1m. The retailer plans to despatch a further three million catalogues there this summer.

N Brown chief executive Alan White said he expected the current year to be challenging in the face of rising costs and falling incomes but predicted the environment would improve in 2012.

He said: “The UK consumer is facing rising costs and falling incomes in 2011, but we anticipate a slow but steady rising trend in disposable income thereafter.”

The home shopping group said it may need targeted promotional campaigns to stimulate sales during the year ahead.

Menswear and footwear top performers

Menswear and footwear were the top-performing categories across all of its brands with sales up 25% and 10% respectively. Menswear brand Jacamo was the fastest growing brand with total revenue up 66%.

Figleaves

N Brown said its younger brands continued to be the fastest growing part of its business, including new acquisition Figleaves, which reached £240m sales. Like-for-likes were up 4% in this sector. Figleaves, which it acquired in June last year, reported like-for-likes up 4%, and sales rose to £16m. The lingerie etailer cut its underlying losses to £0.9m.

Figleaves chief executive Julia Reynolds was last week appointed to be the new chief executive of Blacks. She joins in August.

High & Mighty

High & Mighty, which it bought out of administration in 2009, achieved losses of £800,000 against sales of over £7m, which the retailer said was “good progress”.

Sales at its older brands, targeting the over 65s, declined by 9% to £48m which N Brown said was because that age-group was finding the economic conditions particularly tough.

Womenswear

The retailer said its womeswear sales were mixed although fashionable younger clothing, including its own brand fast fashion online collections and sportswear, had done well.  It said customers were focusing their spend on statement clothing favouring celebrity-designed, higher priced ranges, which it expects to continue in its current year. N Brown will tie up with several celebrities to design capsule ranges over the year.

9% price increase

N Brown said it had raised prices to counteract escalating production costs. It expects prices to rise by 9% in 2011.

Internet sales soared 19% to £324m for the year and now accounts for 45% of its revenue.

White said: ”Our key focus this year will be to expand our home shopping business, both in the UK and internationally, particularly by further developing our online activities. While the current year will be challenging, I am confident this strategy will deliver another good result this year.”

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