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Simply Be and Jacamo owner N Brown Group says 68% of sales now online – and 70% of visits from a mobile

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Simply Be and Jacamo parent company N Brown Group today showed how its business is moving steadily onto digital sales channels as it revealed that 68% of sales now take place online, and seven in 10 visits came from a mobile device.

Revenue from those sales was up by 7.5% in the first half of its financial year. Some 70% of online traffic came via a mobile device in that period – six percentage points more than at the same time last year. Within that, smartphone sessions rose by 42% making phones the channel through which most visitors viewed its site.

Despite the move to mobile, the group’s conversion rate held steady at 5.7%. “This performance is very pleasing given the naturally lower conversion rate on mobile devices,” the company said in today’s statement to investors. “We significantly improved the conversion rate for all three device types (PC, smartphone and tablet) during the half, and continue to focus on this area to further drive customer experience and revenue.”

Some 76% of sales to new customers were made online in the first half – that’s seven percentage points up on the same time last year.

The update came as the company reported group revenue of £429.4m in the 26 weeks to August 27, 1% up on the same time last year. Online revenue from its power brands – Simply Be , Jacamo and JD Williams – rose by 10%. All three are Top250 companies in IRUK Top500 research. But pre-tax profits of £31.6m were down on the £23.8m reported at the same time last year.

Angela Spindler, chief executive, said: “I am pleased with the progress we made during the half, as we continue to change to a digital business model, with an emphasis on agility and innovation. Spring/summer was challenging for the entire retail sector, and we were not immune to this, but we demonstrated our flexibility as we improved revenue performance through the season whilst controlling our costs well.

“Our Power Brands continue to outperform the wider business, and I am particularly encouraged by the 11% revenue growth of the JD Williams brand.”

N Brown Group has launched an innovation incubator, JDWorks. It is working with seven digital start-up companies for 10 weeks to speed up adoption of ideas and technologies ranging from artificial intelligence, and big data analytics to digitalised personal shopping and 3D virtual fitting.

The period also saw N Brown group launch a new US website on Hybris, though it said further rollouts in its Fit 4 the Future systems project would now take place over a longer period of time. Simply Be is N Brown Group’s most popular site in the US, but it said JD Williams, launched in that market in March, was producing an “encouraging” performance. Figleaves, meanwhile, went live with a new Demandware web platform. A Simply Be shopping app will launch ahead of peak trading this year while, said N Brown Group, Jacamo sales now almost all take place online, making it “a truly digital brand”. From January a Jacomo capsule collection will be sold via Asos for a trial period.

The retailer pioneered taking online brands offline when it opened a chain of Simply Be and Jacamo stores. Today it said that store performance was “disappointing” with like-for-like sales down by 9%. But it said action taken to improve revenue and reduce costs had seen performance improve.

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