Belfast Telegraph

New Look warns over 'challenging' trading as profits slump 41.1%

Fashion chain New Look has joined rivals in warning over gloomy high street trading after posting a slump in annual sales and earnings.

The retailer saw underlying operating profits fall 41.1% to £97.6 million in the year to March 25 after UK like-for-like sales dropped 6.8%.

Chief executive Anders Kristiansen cautioned there would be no let-up in the tough trading, while the retail sector would be " more competitive than ever".

He said: "We expect trading conditions for the coming year to remain challenging."

On a bottom line basis, New Look remained in the red but narrowed pre-tax losses to £16.6 million from £34.9 million the previous year.

New Look's cautious outlook comes after fellow fashion retailers Next and Marks & Spencer also sounded the alarm over tough trading following heavy sales slides.

Consumer confidence has been hit hard as prices have started rising as a result of the weak pound, while there has also been a shift away from spending on clothes towards experiences and eating out.

Mr Kristiansen said shoppers were also becoming increasingly trend-conscious, as well as demanding convenience.

He said: "We have seen a growing shift in customer mindset during the year to a 'buy now, wear now' mentality, which challenges us to be even faster in identifying and responding to trends, buying with more conviction and becoming ever more agile.

"Immediacy and convenience matter more than ever before in the search for great fashion."

New Look, owned by South African investment group Brait, ended the year with 872 stores, including 592 in the UK and a further 280 globally.

It expanded its store estate in China by 25 to 110 and said it had seen like-for-like sales growth in the country.