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Jane Norman ‘turns a corner’ after turbulent year

Women’s young fashion chain Jane Norman has “turned a corner” and returned to like-for-like growth after a turbulent year in which EBITDA halved

Jane Norman finance director and deputy chief executive Ian Findlay told Drapers that like-for-like sales in the 10 weeks to February 6 rose 5% and that profits were up on last year.

Figures filed at Companies House this week revealed that EBITDA fell to £15.8m in the year to March 28, 2009, down from £29.5m the year before. Sales were flat at £148.8m, but heavy markdowns following a “disappointing” reaction to product ranges in the second half of the year led to a drop in gross profit margin to 56%, from 60% the year before.

Findlay added that the business “lost focus in the second half of the financial year”, which coincided with the collapse of its backer, Icelandic investment firm Baugur, and its lender, banking firm Kaupthing Singer Friedlander (KSF). It also followed the short tenure of ex-Ghost and Karen Millen executive Sandy Goldsbrough as trading director. The business has since appointed Anita Vassallo to the role.

“We entered 2010 in a much stronger position,” said Findlay. “We had a good Christmas and January, because our stock position was better.” He said Jane Norman had put its focus back on a younger customer.

Details of a restructuring of the business, which took place in December, also emerged.

Jane Norman breached the covenants on a £5.2m loan made with KSF in January 2009, after KSF’s collapse. Jane Norman renegotiated its banking facilities with its consortium of 15 banks and financial organistations, which have 80% of the equity. The management holds 20%.

Jane Norman - which has 269 stores and concessions worldwide including 93 standalones and 94 concessions in the UK and Republic of Ireland - will also launch its website overseas in Germany, Holland, Ireland and Scandinavia.

It is set to expand overseas into new markets including Germany, Holland, the Middle East and Russia.

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