HOME shopping group N Brown unveiled a 20% hike in half-year profits – as its target customer base shielded the group from the wider retail sector woes.
The group, which specialises in clothes for the fuller figure and over 45s, said it also benefited from sales of new ranges from celebrity designers, such as Gok Wan from Channel 4’s How to Look Good Naked.
Pre-tax profits in the 26 weeks to August 30 rose to £40.8m on sales up by 12.6% to £322.8m.
Trading since the half-year was 11.8% ahead with online sales growing strongly.
But Manchester-based N Brown showed some sign of impact from the economic downturn.
It said it was keeping recruitment at last year’s level and tightening credit policies after profit margins were hit by bad debts among its growing base of younger customers.
Most of the group’s customers are aged between 45 and 65, but sales of products aimed at younger customers rose by 21% to £94m.
N Brown said it was a calculated risk to attract the younger age group – with these customers offering a greater profit potential but also a higher credit risk.
The group is clamping down on credit criteria to help protect against bad debts, while it is also freezing second-half recruitment spending at last year’s level to keep a tight control on costs.
Ladieswear sales rose by 9% to £182m during the first half, helped by sales of the range from former Clothes Show presenter Caryn Franklin. Gok Wan has recently been recruited to design a range of corsetry.
N Brown reported “exceptional” sales of menswear, up by 24% to £26m while home and leisure sales were 23% up at £81m – representing a quarter of total sales.