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House of Fraser outlines growth plans to suppliers

House of Fraser chairman Don McCarthy has written to suppliers to update them on the department store’s growth plans and revealed that like-for-like sales rose 10% in the first five weeks of its financial year to March 7.

In the letter sent on March 12, McCarthy said the growth in sales since the year end on January 31 had been largely as a result of the performance of its own-brand offer, or ‘House Brands’, which notched up a sales rise of 50% on last year.

House of Fraser has been in negotiations with its lenders to reset covenants to free up capital to fund the growth of own-brands, international expansion and online developments.

In the letter McCarthy said that the retailer had “received overwhelming support from our lending group that will enable the group to move forward with the next phase of our growth strategy”.

He added that the business would grow through the “introduction of new and the extension of existing House Brands” in a “measured and sensible manner”. House of Fraser will introduce brands such as iconic British womenswear brand Biba and Pied a Terre in womenswear and home.

He added that House of Fraser would expand its multichannel offer and appointed Robin Terrell in February to oversee its online and international growth ambitions.

The plans include the introduction of click and collect in stores, international delivery and in-store web assisted sales. House of Fraser will also open a string of stores in the Middle East in partnership with Retail Arabia International and the first store will open in Abu Dhabi in 2012.

For the full year to January 31, EBITDA at House of Fraser rose 20% to about £70m and it repaid £45m of debt.

In the five weeks of the new financial year, online sales rose 200% and McCarthy said that the like-for-like growth of concession partners “also remains positive across all areas of the business” but did not provide figures.

McCarthy added that the retailer will continue its refurbishment program in 2010 in stores including Glasgow, Meadowhall, Worcester and several others.

McCarthy said: “Despite the tough trading environment I remain confident for the outlook of the business and its contrinued growth. At the same time, the business will continue to keep a tight control on its cost base and drive operational efficiencies.”

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