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Blacks looks to online for new chief executive

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Multichannel retailer Blacks Leisure  today reported strong growth in internet sales as it announced it had hired a new chief executive from the online sector.

The company, which has been in turnaround for the last three years, has hired Julia Reynolds from figleaves.com, and previously of Tesco, to lead the company. She will replace Neil Gillis who announced his departure earlier in the year.

Chairman David Bernstein, reporting the company’s full year results, said the year had been a difficult one for “both the group and the UK retail sector generally, with consumer confidence still continuing to be fragile.”

He described Reynolds as “a very experienced buyer and retailer who will join us from Figleaves.com where, as CEO, she drove a period of significant growth and improvement in results.” The company said the appointment of a chief executive with a specialist retail background was a “significant step” towards completing the company’s turnaround.

In its full-year results Blacks said sales from its recently relaunched blacks.co.uk and millets.co.uk ecommerce platforms had grown by 44.2%. Online sales accounted for 4.8% of group sales in the year to February 26, up from 2.7% at the same time last year. Blacks said it would target further online growth in the coming year.

Total revenue fell by 16% to £201.9m from £240.5m last time, though like-for-like sales, stripping out the effect of store openings and closures, fell less sharply at 6.1%. Pre-tax losses narrowed to £5.3m, from £43.6m last time.

Blacks said it had negotiated new credit facilities until 2012, and said: “The Group faces a challenging year ahead in this uncertain retail climate. Nevertheless, the Directors believe that the restructuring activity that has been undertaken over the past few years has given the Group a real opportunity to deliver a return to profitability over the short to medium term.”
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