Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

French Connection 'on track' despite sales slide

Clothing retailer French Connection has said its recovery plan remained on track despite a recent slide in sales on the high street.

The group said like-for-like sales in its UK and Europe stores, which account for 55% of revenues, declined by 6.1% on a year earlier in the past 15 weeks, with total sales in the stores down 7.7%.

In the first half of the year like-for-like sales were 3% higher but French Connection said weakening sales trends in womenswear impacted on its performance.

The group posted pre-tax losses of £24.9m in the year to January 31 but has pinned its turnaround hopes on a restructuring that has seen the sale of the loss-making Nicole Farhi brand and the closure of its Japanese business and some stores in North America and Europe.

The shake-up left French Connection with its UK and European retail and wholesale operations, the Great Plains wholesale-only ladieswear range and Toast, its mail-order fashion and homewares brand.

The firm's bosses said the declining high street sales would be more than offset by growth in its wholesale business - selling clothes to other retailers and traders - and through cost savings and higher profit margins.

As a result, its full-year performance will be at the higher end of market expectations for pre-tax profits of between £2.6m and £5.1m.

French Connection has 127 outlets in Europe, 111 of which are in the UK. The company was not able to give specific sales figures for its UK outlets.