Belfast Telegraph

N Brown plots high street roll-out

The home shopping firm behind brands Simply Be and Jacamo is to roll out a raft of new stores as it looks to boost its high street presence and offer customers more opportunities to 'click and collect'.

Angela Spindler, the new chief executive of catalogue and online fashion group N Brown, unveiled plans to expand the firm's store estate to around 25 after a successful trial with seven shops, including six dual fascia Simply Be/Jacamo stores.

It is on track to open new stores in Leeds and Derby at the end of the month.

The group is hoping the move will increase its brand awareness as well as further boost its online sales by offering order collection points in prime retail locations.

Manchester-based N Brown has also launched a c lick and collect service across 3,000 local convenience stores this month to boost pre-Christmas trade, building on a 13% hike in half-year internet sales.

The online sales rise helped overall revenues increase 8% to £409.6 million in the six months to August 31, with underlying pre-tax profits 7.1% ahead at £45 million.

Like-for-like sales lifted 7.8% and have continued at the same rate so far in the second half, up 8% in the five weeks to October 5.

Ms Spindler, the former managing director of Debenhams, who joined in July from discount chain The Original Factory Shop, said: "I have spent my first three months looking at the business in detail and I am extremely excited by what I have seen."

The trial stores - the first of which opened in September 2011 - lost £1 million in the half-year, but delivered revenues of £3.4 million.

The group added there has been a positive impact of the stores in local catchment areas, with brand awareness up 10% and web sales 5% higher on Simply Be and 3% higher on Jacamo.

Retail analysts at Shore Capital Stockbrokers said: "We believe that N Brown can become a highly successful and valued international multi-channel retailer of apparel, footwear and accessories, especially in the outsize market."

But shares fell more than 6% today, having risen more than 80% in the past year, as N Brown revealed an increase in bad debts among shoppers buying on credit after a concerted push to attract new customers in recent months.