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Fashion retailers, Bonmarché and Laura Ashley report growth

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Fashion retailers from pureplay to multichannel retailers Bonmarché and Laura Ashley reported their results this week. Would they all be in positive territory, bearing in mind recent figures from the British Retail Consortium that suggested clothing sales are rising are more customers choose to shop online? We took a look. , reporting its first set of results as a publicly listed company on Thursday, showed revenue up by 63% at £109.7m in the year to February 28. At the same time pre-tax profits grew by 237% to £10.7m. The UK is the pureplay’s largest market, and revenue there grew by 60% during the year, while European sales were up 78% and rest of the world by 65%. International sales, in all, came in at 35% of overall revenue.

What was driving the pureplay’s growth? The company, which targets 14 to 35-year-olds with affordable but aspirational on-trend fashion, reported a 54% rise in active customers to 2.3m, while the company also expanded into France during the year, with its first foreign language website, launched in an in-house developed platform. It already trades in English in Australia, Canada, the US and New Zealand, and a second foreign language website has since been launched for the Spanish market. Further expansion also came from the launch of boohooMan, which helped lift menswear sales by 117%.

The growth, said joint chief executives Mahmud Kamani and Carol Kane, would also be felt in years to come. “The launch of new product categories, investment in our warehouse and IT infrastructure and of course the investment and development of our teams all support our future growth.” The company, they added, is now boosting marketing spend and activity as it looks to boost future conversion.

“Looking ahead,” said Kamani and Kane, “we are excited about our future growth prospects, delivering new foreign language websites and introducing additional currency options, as well as further improving our mobile website and customer experience.”

Other points of interest included the fast growth in mobile traffic: some 47% of all traffic originated from mobile devices, compared to 29% in the previous year.

In the first three months of the current year, up to May 31, growth has accelerated. Sale of £30.7m for the period were up by 24% on the same time last year, with UK revenue up by 44% and rest of Europe income by 36%. However, sales in the rest of the world were down by 20%, thanks to a downturn in the Australian market.

Today value fashion retailer Bonmarché , also reporting its first results as a listed company, unveiled growing sales and profits, with the fastest growth over the internet. Revenues were up by 11.9% at £164.3m, while pre-tax profits rose by 66.1% to hit £8m. Notably, online sales were up by 84% at £11.6m as a multichannel strategy bore fruit. The company said internet growth stemmed from a 2012 website replatform, the addition of online-only lines, and growth in its email database as well as in its online digital marketing.

Chief executive Beth Butterwick said the company, which sells through stores, its website, mail order catalogues and through the Ideal World TV shopping channel had made good progress in key strategic areas that included multichannel along with products, stores, and service.

“We are confident that the successful execution of our forward growth strategy, combined with our established position as one of the largest pure-play value retailers dedicated to women over 50, will enable us to continue building on our appeal and accessibility to these customers and, in turn, deliver value for our shareholders,” she said.

Finally, Laura Ashley , in an interim management statement said its fashion sales and home furnishing sales had grown, on a like-for-like basis. But in the first 19 weeks of the year, to June 8, it said total retail sales had fallen, by 0.9%, compared to the same time last year. Like-for-like sales, which strip out the effect of store openings and closures, were up by 0.7%. Two stores opened in the UK during the period, while three closed, and six new stores were added in its franchise business.

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