China stores help fashion chain boost profits to £50m
Budget fashion chain New Look outlined plans to ramp up its international presence under its new owners as the group reported a rise in annual profits after opening new stores and expanding into China.
The firm, which runs more than 800 stores in 21 countries including around 20 in Northern Ireland, said underlying earnings lifted 4% to £212.4m in the year to March 28 after opening 37 new outlets, while pre-tax profit jumped to £50.6m from £20.7m.
Last month Brait, an investment vehicle of the South African retail billionaire Christo Wiese, snapped up a 90% stake in New Look for £780m.
The group, which refurbished 297 stores over the year, posted a 4% rise in like-for-like sales, with same stores sales in the UK lifting 5%.
It said while the high street remained competitive, it was pleased with early summer fashion trading and added it was confident it was well placed for the year ahead. New Look said click-and-collect orders jumped 28%, with 19% of these customers making an additional purchase when they came into a shop.
In China, the business said it opened 19 stores by the end of the period. This grew to 30 by May, with the retailer planning to operate 70 stores in the country by next March.
Chief executive Anders Kristiansen said: "These strong results demonstrate a year of delivery against our strategy.
"With the support of our new owners Brait, this is a hugely exciting time for New Look."
Mr Kristiansen said the business will focus on its branding, online sales, international expansion, product development and the expansion of its menswear business.
The retailer launched a menswear section during the period at its Oxford Circus store in London.
It added that Christopher Englinde is due to join the group as global director of menswear from Swedish rival H&M.
New Look was sold by buyout firms Apax and Permira, who also passed on about £1bn of debt to the new owners.
The remaining 10% of the business is held by the family of Tom Singh, who founded the business in 1969, and other senior management.
Mr Wiese has been linked with a string of UK retail takeovers in recent years, including a bid for department chain BhS, formerly owned by Sir Philip Green.
New Look had planned to list on the stock market five years ago, but the move was eventually shelved amid turmoil in the financial markets.
Its return to the stock market has been the subject of intense speculation in the City ever since.