Belfast Telegraph sales up 35% in second quarter, managing director reports

The boss of has seen sales jump by more than a third as the retailer seizes a start-up mentality to resurrect the business online.

Managing director Kevan Mallinder said sales climbed 35% during the second quarter thanks to a stand-out performance from its womenswear division, which surged 350% over the period.

Efforts to rebuild the brand were also gaining traction, with first-time shoppers representing around two thirds of its customers.

Mr Mallinder said his 20-strong staff - the majority of which came from the defunct department store group - had thrown off the shackles of the past and were treating the operation like a disruptive start-up.

He told the Press Association: "The star of the show in the last quarter has been womenswear and that has grown because we have better products and we have given it more focus.

"A question I frequently ask is: 'What would a start-up company do?' And if they wouldn't do it, then nor should we.

"All the staff have needed is some freedom to ask themselves new questions."

The Al Mana Group snapped up the brand and formed BHS International in June last year.

Alongside, it also owns the overseas franchise business, which has profitable department stores throughout Europe and the Middle East.

The Qatari firm poached Mr Mallinder to lead the online business from organic food delivery firm Abel & Cole six months ago.

He said the aim of was to offer products "at prices in reach of any British home", with a focus on UK contemporary design.

While sales had seen no immediate impact from a slowdown in consumer spending or rising inflation, he said the firm was keeping an eye on costs to prevent price rises.

The retailer wants to avoid selling more expensive products that drag it towards the middle of the market occupied by struggling retailers such as Debenhams.

He said: "Because we are privately owned by the Al Mana Group, they want to see the business succeed over the long term, which brings a different aspect to the decisions.

"We are building something that is not measured by quarterly statements."

Focusing on the high street, Mr Mallinder did not rule out the option of opening a BHS store in the UK, but said that - and international online presence - were not a part of his immediate plans.

He also said the company would not become embroiled in the ongoing fallout surrounding the department store chain's collapse.

"The past has happened and the regulators and the authorities will see that through to whatever the outcomes are," he added.

"We cannot influence it, nor should we try to, because it's past business.

"We have got a name that is nearly 90 years old, but we are a team of new people trying to create a new long-term business".

It comes as Labour MP Frank Field hit out on Thursday at former BHS owner Sir Philip Green for issuing "empty threats" against him.

Mr Field said Sir Philip's lawyers called on him to apologise to the entrepreneur for comments he made last week related to the demise of the store chain.

The chain was sold by Sir Philip for £1 in 2015, but plunged into administration the following year.

Around 11,000 jobs and around 19,000 pension holders were affected, leaving a £571 million pension deficit.

Weekly Business Digest Newsletter

This week's business news headlines, directly to your inbox every Tuesday.