Jan 16, 2020
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Simply Be and Ambrose Wilson brands shine at N Brown

Jan 16, 2020

Simply Be and Ambrose Wilson were good news for owner N Brown Group in the 18 weeks to January 4, despite the firm’s overall revenues dropping by 5% in the period. 

Simply Be

Financial services revenue fell 4.6% and its total product revenue fell 4%, but digitally it rose 2.5%, and that really matters as digital is the area it’s focusing on after exiting physical stores and offline marketing channels.

The company said its womenswear sales rose just 1.1% but digital revenue for the category was up 6.7%. Simply Be’s digital revenue sprinted ahead by 13.1% (12.1% in total), while Ambrose Wilson rose 7.9% online but fell 9.6% in total. The major JD Williams brand was sluggish though as its digital revenues rose only 0.4% and its total revenues fell 4%. Menswear (which comprises just the Jacamo brand) was up 3.2% digitally and 2.5% in total. 

As mentioned, that all led to an overall revenue drop of 5%, or a smaller drop of 4.1% with the US operations taken out. 

The advances the firm is making digitally are good news with 87% of its revenues now coming via online channels and the company is clearly carving out a strong market for itself here.

Product-wise, the star Simply Be brand had a good period due to increased sales of party tops and its athleisure range “which benefitted from closer to home, more reactive sourcing with lead times reduced by four weeks”.  This was complemented by the Simply Be App with demand penetration increasing by 76% year-on-year. The New Icons campaign, higher sales through partnership channels and more digital traffic being driven by social media also contributed to Simply Be's performance.

The company didn’t explain why JD Williams was slow, although the fact that it’s already well established online (82% of its revenue is now digital) means comparisons are tougher for the brand.

By contrast, Ambrose Wilson gets only 63% of its revenue via digital so its growth potential is stronger and this was seen in that online advance this time. The performance of the brand in the period was driven by its Cruise and occasionwear ranges performing “especially well combined with focused digital campaigns and targeted reduction of paper marketing”.

And the company said Jacamo's growth was driven by the introduction of new premium brands.

The company also said that predominantly due to one-off issues, lower financial services revenue and a “highly promotional market”, it now expects FY20 adjusted profit before tax to be in the range of £70m to £72m.

CEO Steve Johnson said the period just finished was an “encouraging” one and the firm is “making good progress with our ongoing strategic review and look forward to providing further details at our full-year results in April”.

He added that the work so far “has highlighted the need to have a tighter brand portfolio, a sharper focus on product and a cost base appropriate for delivering sustainable digital growth”.

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