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Figleaves reports first profit in its 13-year history

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Online lingerie brand Figleaves has made its first profit in its 13-year history, its owners the N Brown Group reported today.

Figleaves’ own-brand sales rose by 20% while costs were “radically pruned” to bring in the first ever profit for the brand, which N Brown Group bought in June 2010.

The home shopping company, which owns a range of fashion, homewares and gifts brands including Simply Be, Jacomo and JD Williams, also said that ecommerce had grown over the year to March 3 to become its biggest sales channel. Online sales rose by 16% to £377m during the year and now make up more than 50% of all sales.

But while online sales are growing strongly the company has also continued experimenting with multichannel, opening more stores for its Simply Be brand. Last autumn the first Simply Be stores opened in Liverpool and Bury and by the end of the financial year had turned over £0.7m. N Brown Group said it was evaluating sales to customers living in the postcode areas influenced by the stores, and that early indications showed “an uplift in the level of online purchases in the catchment area.” The company has opened four new Simply Be stores in the last month and will open another in September.

But as online and high street sales grow, sales over the telephone are falling, with telephone orders down by 17% over the year and telephone enquiries and payment calls both down by 21%. Instead, said N Brown Group, customers are buying online through its redesigned My Account facility.

In the year to March 3 N Brown Group group revenue rose by 4.8% to £753.2m and pre-tax profits rose by 2.5% to £96.9m.

Highlights also included a 17% rise in sales at High & Mighty, which the group bought out of administration in 2009. Following changes that have included a move to Manchester, replatforming the website, store moves, refurbishments and openings, sales rose to £8.8m, with like-for-like sales up by 7%. Losses fell to £0.2m from £0.8m last time and the company anticipates the operation will move into profit in the current financial year.

Chief executive Alan White said: “We are particularly pleased to see Figleaves delivering its first ever profit, good sales growth from High & Mighty and by the performance of our Simply Be, Marisota and Jacamo brands.

Looking ahead, our multi-channel strategy, combined with our focus on niche customers and products and the flexibility of our business model will look to overcome the challenging macro-economic conditions. The board remains confident that we will continue to make progress this year.”

N Brown Group said it would also expand its international activities. During the year, Simply Be’s US sales rose by 500% to £4.8m, although N Brown Group said sales in Germany had been held back by a “too high” product returns rate that stood at 60% by the end of the year.

Chairman Lord Alliance of Manchester said: “We are pleased to announce another robust set of results despite a difficult trading environment where our customers have seen their discretionary income become increasingly hard-pressed. We have continued to focus on our multi-channel strategy, investing in our online trading platform, whilst also expanding our international activities.

“Although we do not expect the market to materially improve, we believe consumer confidence will begin to pick up later this year and we are confident that our strategy will continue to deliver in 2012.”

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