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Edinburgh Woollen Mill in profit despite challenges

Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group, which has around 24 stores in Northern Ireland, has unveiled a profit despite "challenging" high street conditions, in a period which saw it add several new brands to its portfolio.

The company, which is owned by retail billionaire Philip Day, has filed new accounts to Companies House showing a pre-tax profit of £81.2m for the 18 months to August 25, 2018.

Revenues for the period hit £935.8m.

Core brands Peacocks and Edinburgh Woollen Mill both reported profits, bringing in £66.5m and £32.1m. Each brand has around 12 stores here.

Jaeger, which was acquired by the group following its collapse in 2017, made a loss before tax of £3.86m on a 12-month basis.

This was half the run rate loss of £7.1m in the year prior to the brand's administration and follows a period of heavy investment by EWM Group, including the opening of seven new standalone stores and 11 concessions.

Steve Simpson, chief commercial officer at the group, said: "In the face of a challenging retail environment, our commitment to the physical high street and relentless focus on our customers' wants and needs has enabled us to again stand out from the crowd."

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Jaeger is one of a number of brands picked up by the group in the last few years as it seeks to grow its luxury division.

It has also snapped up Austin Reed, Berwin and the Calvetron Brands portfolio, which includes Jacques Vert, Dash, Eastex and Windmoor.

Following the buying spree, EWM Group created a new head office in London's Victoria combining the teams of each brand.

Meanwhile, the group said its resistance to "discount culture" had allowed it to ease pressure on margins, while a focus on quality is expected to yield results as consumers become more environmentally conscious.

Mr Simpson added this was motivated by a trend for shoppers to make buying decisions "on the basis of long-term value rather than impulse".

"We must retail a product not only at an attractive price point but also ensure it has a fashionable look and inherent product quality. In short, we continue to focus on providing exceptional value for money," he added.

The group has previously expressed its intention to roll out Days, its department store concept which currently operates at a single location in Carmarthen, to as many as 50 sites. However, the expansion has been put on the back-burner while it prioritises investment in the luxury division.

Mr Day was also one of the bidders circling House of Fraser last year as the department store went into administration, although he lost out to Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley.

The tycoon has more recently launched a bid to take over womenswear retailer Bonmarche, although the process has been delayed.