Multichannel, mobile and service: themes from the N Brown Group full-year figures
Jacamo, Simply Be and Figleaves owner the N Brown Group this week reported sales of £900.7m in the 53 weeks to February 27. That's 4% ahead of the same time last year. But pre-tax profits of £57.6m were 20.2% down on last time, following a £22.9m charge related to compensation in relation to financial services customer complaints. We pulled out some of the highlights of its multichannel strategy.
N Brown Group has transformed itself in recent years from a home shopping catalogue group to a multichannel retailer, selling primarily online but also trading on the high street through a chain of strategically-placed Simply Be and Jacamo stores.
This week's results showed that ecommerce sales rose by 10%, year on year, and online now accounted for 69% of sales, up from 65% a year earlier. More than three quarters (77%) of new customers were acquired online.
N Brown Group's second-largest sales channel is through the contact centre: the group estimates that half of its customers who do not currently buy online are unlikely ever to do so. "Whilst we are online-first in our approach, we are happy to serve customers in whichever way they would like to shop with us," said the company in today's results statement.
The retailer says it does not now plan to open any new stores in the future as the 23 stores it currently operates (15 Simply Be and Jacamo stores and eight High & Mighty stores) are seeing "weak" footfall.
Some 71% of all traffic came from mobile devices, up from 66% a year earlier. Smartphone sessions grew by 49% to account for 46% of all traffic. At JD Williams alone, smartphone sessions more than doubled compared to last year. But growth in mobile sessions meant that overall conversion rates fell to 5.6%, but the conversion rate for smartphones and tablets rose: up by 8% and 3% respectively.
Its first shopping app, for Simply Be, launched last October: N Brown Group said: "Performance to date has been encouraging, with good customer feedback and conversion rates."
N Brown Group reported that it received its highest ever customer satisfaction score from the UK Institute of Customer Service during the year, at 86.5%.
Chief executive Angela Spindler said: "Our customer satisfaction rating is the second highest in the sector and our online metrics remain strong, with over 75% of new customers coming to us online." The highest rating is enjoyed by Amazon.
The retailer has been using artificial intelligence to improve its personalisation and targeting. It has also used eye tracking to understand the user experience and social proof messaging to strengthen customer engagement and drive conversion.
Its IT transformation, the Fit 4 the Future systems project, was reported on track to complete by summer 2018. All N Brown Group brands are set to migrate onto a new Hybris platform by the end of summer 2018.
Working with third-party retailers and brands
N Brown Group is working to grow sales and win new customers by partnering with third party retailers.
A "capsule collection" of Jacamo clothing went on sale on Asos in March, and N Brown Group said that sales so far, while very early, were "encouraging". Simply Be and Jacamo clothing is also to be sold via Tesco Direct in the UK and, as a trial, in-store in some of its Eastern European supermarkets. The group is also in talks with "a number of retailers" to sell its products via their websites.
The retailer also sells third-party brands on its own website, many available in plus sizes exclusively with the group. Since the beginning of the 2017 full-year it has added more than 100 brands, including Wrangler, Ben Sherman, Timberland and Ann Summers.
Richard Clark, previously of Boohoo, The White Company, Argos and Best Buy Europe, has joined as international director with a brief to lead international expansion in the US and other markets.