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French Connection boss Stephen Marks attributes turnaround to new team

French Connection’s turnaround, which has seen losses narrow by 38%, is down to “better execution, better product and better people”, according to chief executive and chairman Stephen Marks.

The fashion chain published results this week showing losses for the year to January 31 had shrunk to £4.4m from £7.2m the previous year. Underlying operating profits from retail operations dropped to £11.6m from £15.4m, while wholesale profits fell from £13.9m to £11.7m, largely as a result of tough US trading.

In the second half of the year, French Connection made a profit of £1.7m, compared with a £900,000 loss in 2012/13.

Revenues dropped to £189.4m for the year to January 31, down from £197.3m last year, as nine underperforming stores were closed, with a further three to five scheduled to shut this year. Of the revenues, £117.5m came from retail, down from £123.4m last year, while wholesale accounted for £71.9m, down from £73.9m.

Marks told Drapers it would still take a couple of years for French Connection to turn a profit but it was “a little bit ahead of schedule”. Analysts expect it to make a small loss or break even for the current financial year.

Marks credited a revamped womenswear team headed by a new creative director, finance director, managing director of retail and head of production, all brought in over the past 18 months, as making a “significant difference”. He declined to name any of the recent additions, except group finance director Adam Castleton, who joined last August.

Marks said: “We have gone for people that are not complacent. They are younger, have fresher ideas, they don’t have any baggage. They have done a really good job.”

He added: “We have seen a positive reception to our spring 14 range and while there is still much to do, I am confident we are on the right path and have the right strategy to drive further progress.”

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