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N Brown digital focus drives e-sales rise in Q1, but total sales fall

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today Jun 20, 2019
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In a retail world that’s beset by company failures, it’s mildly encouraging when a trading update is released that looks fairly sound, even if the headline figure includes sales falls. And so it was on Thursday when N Brown reported on trading for the first quarter of its financial year, the 12 weeks to June 1.


JD Williams



It said it saw a "solid trading performance, continued growth in digital revenue, [and] full-year expectations [are] unchanged.”

Its digital revenue was up 3%, which is significant as the company is transitioning to a digital-only operation and exiting physical stores, although the move is having an on-going negative impact on total sales, as is its focus on its star brands and its managed decline of other, smaller labels. Financial services revenue was up 8% and it all added up to a total revenue fall of 3.8%, even though total product revenue dropped 5.4%.

The company said that 83% of total revenue is now digital, an increase of 9ppts and that 84% of digital traffic comes from mobile devices, a rise of 6ppts.

And the activity happening in digital really is key here. For instance, within the Womenswear division, the company saw a revenue drop of 2.8% for JD Williams but a 5.9% digital revenue increase. And 78% of the label’s revenue is now sourced online.

Simply Be revenue was up 2.2% in total but up 4.6% on a digital basis, while Ambrose Wilson was down 16.2% in total but up 10.1% digitally. Some 56% of the latter’s revenue is now digital, an increase of 13ppts year-on-year. 

And the Menswear division, which basically means Jacamo, rose 7.7% overall but 8.8% on a digital basis.

The impact of the smaller brands on the company’s total figures quoted earlier can be seen from the fact that the revenue line the company refers to as Product Brands saw a 12.7% decline. In spite of a strong digital performance from Oxendales and Figleaves, the overall business unit was impacted “by the continued managed decline in House of Bath, High & Mighty and Premier Man.”

CEO Steve Johnson said the company was “pleased” and called the performance “solid”, highlighting the growth in key brands “as we continue to improve our customer offer while managing the decline of our legacy offline business.”

He added that “the retail market remains challenging, but we have a clear strategy to deliver profitable digital growth.”

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