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French Connection sees online sales rise by 44% – but says business won’t be back to normal for some time

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French Connection says its online sales have grown by 44% in the last six weeks, while its stores and concessions have been closed as a result of coronavirus. It also says that it does not expect its business to be back to more normal levels of trade for some time to come. 

The multichannel fashion retail brand, ranked Top350 in RXUK Top500 research, says it is continuing to supply some of its online wholesale customers who are still trading and that it is seeing “a small increase in activity in Europe as countries begin to open up”.

Now it is developing plans for reopening stores safely once that is possible. “Given the UK government’s recent update regarding the potential phased reopening of stores from June 1, we are planning to open up in an orderly manner to ensure everything required is in place,” it said. “We look forward to returning to more normal levels of trade as the situation evolves, although we do not expect this for some time to come.”

French Connection is talking to its suppliers about extending payment terms and discounts and managing its future supply of goods and to its landlords about rent holidays and deferred payments. Staff have been furloughed and the retailer is also benefiting from rates relief for its store portfolio. It said: “It has however proved very challenging for us, in line with other retailers, to access any other Government funds due to the tight qualification constraints that have been imposed and to date we have been unable to access any further funding from these schemes. 

“In the light of the company’s current cash position and the continued expected weak trading environment, we have been in active discussions with a number of potential funding partners. The board is confident of raising sufficient funds to support the business until the return of trading levels that are able to support the ongoing operations.”

As of January 31, French Connection traded from 96 stores and from 195 concessions, including 43 French Connection stores in the UK and Europe. Its recent strategy has been to trade from around 30 owned stores while increasing its sales to wholesale customers. In its latest full-year, it saw sales increase after adapting to what it termed the ’new retail’. 

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