Belfast Telegraph

Profits rise to £3.4m at House of Fraser but firm says that trading still fickle

 

By Business Reporters

House Of Fraser has chalked up a rise in full-year profits, but the company warned trading remains volatile. The department store, which is owned by Chinese conglomerate Sanpower Group and operates in Belfast's Victoria Square, said pre-tax profits grew from £1.3m to £3.4m in the year to January 28.

Online delivered a 16.1% increase in sales and now accounts for more than a fifth of the group's total.

Overall revenues were flat at £1.3bn, while like-for-like sales edged up 0.9% in the period.

However, the group warned: "The volatility experienced throughout fiscal year 2017 has continued into the current financial year.

"Whilst trading remained subdued in February, as witnessed across the retail sector, the group saw significant improvement in March."

House Of Fraser also said five underperforming brands will be "discontinued" this year, with the focus moving to the most popular ones.

Colin Elliot, House Of Fraser's finance chief, flagged up "continued challenging trading conditions across the retail sector".

But he said: "To deliver such a strong set of results for the year is a testimony to the resilience of our business model, and credit to the expertise and dedication of the new senior management team."

The chain was rocked last year by the departure of chief executive Nigel Oddy, who quit his role less than two years in.

House Of Fraser recently opened its first standalone shop in China under a plan to build its brand across the Asian powerhouse.

It set up shop in Sanpower Plaza in the commercial zone of Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province.

In October make-up brand Charlotte Tilbury opened its first counter as part of a £5m revamp of House of Fraser in Belfast.

It's the first major refurbishment at House of Fraser in Belfast since it opened its doors in 2008.

It included a major refit of the ground floor, which the company said would use space more effectively, so that more brands could be offered at the store, which is the anchor retailer at Victoria Square.

Cult company Charlotte Tilbury, named after the make-up artist, is the first new brand at House of Fraser.

Chanel is also opening a new boutique there, selling its exclusive fragrances.

And it is revamping its Jo Malone boutique, and adding beauty brands such as NARS and Urban Decay, which are already available in rivals such as Debenhams and Space NK. The results come a day after it was revealed Northern Ireland's high street enjoyed mixed fortunes over the the Easter weekend.

There was an overall decrease of 0.2% in footfall between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, according to Springboard.

But there was an increase of 6.6% for 'leisure activity' after 5pm.

Springboard's Diane Wehrle said: "The trend for leisure activity post-5pm is in line with the wider UK results."

Across the UK, Good Friday itself saw numbers fall by 5.9% based on the same period a year earlier.

The increase in online sales at House of Fraser, which now account for more than a fifth of the group's total

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