Belfast Telegraph

House of Fraser profits under pressure from web platform launch

The department store chain said half-year earnings sunk to an £8.6 million loss, down from a £900,000 profit in 2016.

Profits at House of Fraser have come under strain after the launch of a new web platform and “significant discounting” took its toll on the retailer.

The department store chain said half-year earnings sunk to an £8.6 million loss, down from a £900,000 profit in 2016, as website sales suffered from the roll-out of a £25 million online sales platform.

Gross profits also slipped 5% to £196.9 million over the period, as the group slashed prices on old stock to pave the way for a new womenswear brand.

Gross transaction value hit £545.8 million, with like-for-like sales dropping 5.2% compared to last year.

However, the retailer said it was optimistic about delivering growth in the final quarter, as the impacts of launching the new online platform and womenswear range were largely behind it.

Chief executive Alex Williamson, who joined the firm earlier this year, said: “My observations after a few weeks are that since Sanpower acquired the business in 2014 the primary focus has been on stabilising an enterprise that had been starved of investment for many years.

“Whether it be refinancing the business, the investment of over £100 million in capital expenditure since the acquisition or a root and branch upgrade of the executive team, much has already been done to prepare us for significant transformation.

“And House of Fraser has much to be optimistic about.

“Our new House Brand Womenswear collections for autumn/winter have been launched and our customers’ response to date has been very encouraging.

“Our new web platform greatly improves our customers’ experience and online margins whilst our investment in the distribution centre will deliver cost savings through improved operational efficiencies.”

House of Fraser, which employs 5,000 people and has 59 department stores in the UK and Ireland, opened its first store for nine years in August at Rushden Lakes in Northamptonshire.

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