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Online and Woolies will boost profits, says Shop Direct boss

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Shop Direct Group, which bought the Woolworths brand last month, has seen a massive increase in online sales this year, chief executive Mark Newton-Jones has told the Financial Times:

The mail order and internet retailer, which operates Littlewoods and acquired the Woolworths brand earlier this month, said yesterday it had already hit last year’s figure of £60.9m of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation in the first nine months of the current financial year after a surge in online shopping.

Mark Newton-Jones, chief executive, told the Financial Times that the demise of high street homeware and furnishing chains in the run-up to Christmas had boosted his online business as consumers shifted their shopping online, helping to lift internet sales 50 per cent year-on-year since January 1. He now expects underlying profits to double to £120m in the year to April 2009.

However, acquisition and restructuring costs have hit the pre-tax line, with the group reporting a pre-tax loss of £26.6m in the year to April 30, up from a loss of £59.8m in the previous year.

Woolworths is due to return online in June, Newton-Jones told the FT, and will include the online return of an old favourite:

“There’s so much affection for it and it’s held in so much fondness,” he said. “It’s 100 years worth of history so there was a real shock that it had gone.”

With the new site concentrating on children’s clothing, family entertainment, music and video games, Woolworths’ much-loved Pick ‘n’ Mix confectionery will also make a return as Click ‘n’ Mix.

Meanwhile, Ladybird, the children’s wear brand it also bought last month, would be extended to furnishing.

But a host of other old Woolworths’ favourites, from mops to ironing boards, will be ditched from the new virtual store.

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