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Express Gifts’ losses narrow as sales grow by 18.1%

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Operating losses at home shopping business Express Gifts narrowed to £0.5m in the first half of its financial year, while sales rose by nearly a fifth, its parent company Findel reported today.

Turnover at the business, which sells through catalogues and online through Studio, Ace, and Health and Home Shopping, was 18.1% ahead in the half-year to September 28, Findel said, while trading since the half-year end is 9% ahead. The company said that 75% of its additional sales came from existing customers, and 48% of orders were taken online. Of those, 11% came from a mobile device.

An emphasis on price promotion has “continued to generate a strong response and overall performance,” while its customer base increased by 18%. Its first-half operating loss reduced to £0.5m from £1.8m last time. “Looking forwards,” said Findel’s first-half statement, our plans for Express Gifts include a continued focus on improved buying and merchandising, improving and deepening our ranges.”

Express Gifts’ performance evidenced, said Findel group chief executive Roger Siddle , the success of its parent company’s turnaround plan. “We remain very encouraged by the performance of Express Gifts, on track again for a strong Christmas, with divisional current trading 9% ahead of a strengthening prior year comparator,” he said.

The company’s other online retailing business, Kitbag , is also showing “evidence of recovery in performance,” said Siddle. Following changes to its buying and merchandising as well as renegotiations of “particularly unattractive contracts” sales at the online sports kit retailer have risen by 12% in the first half, and operating losses have reduced to £0.7m from £1.8m last time.

Findel, which also has education and healthcare divisions, reported revenues of £275.1m in the half-year to September 28, 8% up from £254.6m at the same time last year. Pre-tax losses narrowed slightly to £10.5m from £10.8m last time. Before exceptional items, losses narrowed to £4.6m from £5.6m last time.

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