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Digital grows fast at N Brown Group while sales across other channels fall

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Digital and mobile sales grew by 3% at N Brown Group in the first quarter of its financial year, but managed decline in other channels meant that overall sales fell by 3.8%, the company said today.

Some 83% of total revenues came from digital sales – up by nine percentage points on the same time last year, while 84% (+6pp) of digital traffic was from mobile devices. 

In a financial statement, the home shopping group, which owns brands including JD Williams and Simply Be, reported digital sales from products sales grew by 3% in the 13 weeks to June 1, but said that product sales across all channels fell by 5.4% at the same time. Total revenue fell by 3.8%, and by 1.3% when stores and N Brown’s US operations were excluded.

Digital sales grew by 5.9% at JD Williams, but total revenues fell by 2.8%, with 78% of revenue now made online. Simply Be grew both online (+4.6%) and across channels (+2.2%). Its Ambrose Wilson brand saw sales grow fast online (+10.1%) and fall fast across channels (-16.2%). Jacamo contributed to an 8.8% rise in digital revenue for menswear. 

JD Williams is rated Leading in IRUK Top500 research, while Simply Be and Jacamo are both Top50. 

Steve Johnson, chief executive of N Brown Group, said: “”We’re pleased to report a solid trading performance in the first quarter. In line with our strategy, we delivered digital revenue growth across JD Williams, Simply Be, Ambrose Wilson and Jacamo as we continue to improve our customer offer whilst managing the decline of our legacy offline business.

“The retail market remains challenging, but we have a clear strategy to deliver profitable digital growth and our full year expectations are unchanged.”

Product brand revenue fell by 12.7% in the quarter, in line with, it said, “our strategy of scaling back unprofitable offline marketing and recruitment.” It said a strong digital performance from Oxendales and Figleaves was offset by the continued managed decline in House of Bath, High & Mighty and Premier Man. Revenue from financial services grew by 8% year-on-year.

Commenting, James Yacoub, retail analyst at data and analytics firm GlobalData, said the retail group’s revenue had fallen “as it goes through the process of transforming into an online pureplay”. 

Its womenswear brands grew online but, said Yacoub, that was to be expected, given the group’s decision last summer to close its stores, and given its investment online. He said the arrival of the group’s first chief brand officer, Kenyatte Nelson, who joins from Missguided, was a step in the right direction. “Overall,” he said, “N Brown’s proposition needs refining as it continues to innovate, focusing on digitalisation. Although N Brown is wise to move away from offline retail, the brand risks alienating part of its matrue, over 50s target market. It should therefore focus on retaining customers through the enhancement of its loyalty schemes. Simply Be offers a delivery saver scheme which is a step in the right direction, however its Perks loyalty scheme is unclear and needs to be improved.”

Image courtesy of N Brown Group

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