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Revenue falls in “critical year” for N Brown’s digital transition


N Brown Group saw its adjusted profits before tax fall by 28.8% for the last financial year, with revenue down 6.1%.

The last 12 months were viewed by the Manchester-based company as “critical” in its transition from the high street to digital.

During the period 85% of product revenue was generated through its digital channels, that marks an increase of 6%.

Broken down by brand:

Simply Be – 98%

Jacamo – 97%

JD Williams – 81%

Ambrose Wilson – 60%

Its year end figures did show that it had returned a statutory profit before tax of £35.7m, following last year’s loss of £57.7m. This was adjusted to £59.5m (2019: £83.6m) due to exceptional items.

Looking at the first quarter of this financial year, N Brown stated that it had experienced a “significant decline” in March, but trading had improved since then.

Group revenue for the first quarter fell 22%, while product sales fell by 28.8%, although in the last 3 weeks, that has improved to a 21% decline.

91% of its sales are now digital and it has had an online launch of a new “Home Essentials” brand.

During Q1 its operating costs fell 42.6%, this was due to a “significant reduction in marketing expenditure”, placing 30% of staff on furlough and deferring a number of payments to HMRC.

“The business has responded strongly to the challenges posed by the Covid-19 outbreak, highlighting our resilience as a business and I thank every single one of our colleagues who have worked so hard to keep us operational, with safety and our customers in the front of their minds.  The crisis will cast a lasting shadow over the sector, but we are confident that our agile approach and attractive brand offerings, with clear target customer segments, position us well to navigate the issues and emerge as a stronger business,” said Chief Executive, Steve Johnson.

“In a year of restructuring for the Group, Simply Be, JD Williams, Jacamo and Ambrose Wilson all grew digital revenue and following further progress in the first quarter of this financial year, 91% of our product revenue now comes from digital channels. The retail environment remains heavily promotional and the regulatory challenges in financial services have required us to adapt and evolve our offer, but our commitment to driving operating efficiencies is creating the right platform for the future.

“Trading in the first quarter of this financial year was impacted by Covid-19 but sales in recent weeks have shown an improving trajectory and cash collections have been stable.  Operating costs are significantly lower than last year and net debt has decreased.

“As we move forward, we have refreshed our strategy, evolved our key pillars of growth and are pushing on with further work to streamline our brand portfolio, improve our product, create a brand new Home proposition whilst improving our digital capabilities and developing our financial services offer.  Challenges remain in the year ahead, but we are focused on accelerating the business and are confident we are taking the right actions to create a sustainable, profitable business for the long term which has the potential to generate significant value.”

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