Consumer sector comment – April 2009

Date

Better news….!! A clear picture is emerging of who the winners are in this roller coaster economy.

Great fashion brands whether it be High Street as in TopShop, online at Asos or designer labels at Liberty are appealing to customer’s need for the latest looks. These businesses appear to be fairly robust, with their customers being either younger with no ties or older and more affluent. In terms of providing great value fashion, N Brown offers something to all shapes and sizes (that’s body as well as wallet). Their value proposition has seen them ride out this downturn in demand. The majority of these businesses have invested heavily in marketing and getting their message across, and it seems to have paid off, nowhere more so than with JD Sports who have overshadowed their arch rival by achieving another set of record results. So as always fortune favours the brave, that is strong management teams who have a clear strategy about managing their way through the gloom and focusing on the customer.

News Stories

Eighties fashion revival helps Asos raise forecast. Online fashion retailer, Asos, has forecasted profits ahead of expectations as it said sales for the year reached £165m. Analysts expect profits to come in at £13.8m, almost double last years £7.3m. The retailer has seen sales boosted by a revival in eighties fashions.

Ultimate Products acquires Intempo Digital. Sourcing business Ultimate Products in Oldham has bought digital radio business Intempo for an undisclosed sum. Manchester-based Intempo, which was founded in 2003, supplies iPod and MP3 speakers, docking stations and accessories and DAB radios to retailers including Argos, Amazon, ASDA, John Lewis, Play.com, Comet and Toys R Us. The company’s management team will remain in place, while founder and managing director Bernadette Spofforth is expected to take control of all of Ultimate’s in-house brands.

JJB agrees ground-breaking restructuring with creditors. JJB Sports has become the first ever listed company to be rescued from administration by agreeing a revised payment scheme with creditors using a company voluntary arrangement. The groundbreaking arrangement could save up to 12,000 jobs at the retailer.

Alexon Group puts Bay Trading under administration. Alexon Group has announced that its Bay Trading subsidiary has entered administration with a view to finding a buyer. for the 268 store fashion chain. The company said that while its core Alexon Brands remains profitable and cash generative, Bay Trading is loss making and has relied upon funding from the rest of the group to continue in operation. Up to 1,800 jobs are at risk.

Profits soar as N Brown’s digital growth continues. Home shopping giant N Brown has revealed a bumper hike in profits. The group, which is now making inroads into the European market following the launch of Simply Be in Germany, said that online shopping had continued to soar and now accounts for around 34% of total sales which, N Brown says, delivers both higher order values and reduced transaction costs. In the 12 months to February 28 underlying pre-tax profits soared 11.3% to £82.7m, while turnover was up 10.7% to £662.5m.

Halfords to scrap its standalone bicycle chains. Halfords will discontinue its experiment with independent bicycle stores, closing one shop in York and rebranding the seven other Bikehut or Cycle Republic stores and high street Halfords shops.

JD continues to sparkle amid retail gloom. Retail chain JD Sports Fashion continue to defy the odds with another record set of results as profits rose 9% to £32.8m. The firm’s profit haul would have been higher still without exceptional items of £16.3m, which included a £6.1m hit on its 9.9% strategic investment in troubled Wigan-based rival JJB Sports. JD bought the JJB stake at 32.25p a share last November, but by the year end its shares had slumped to 8p. JD Sports Fashion operates 345 sports shops, mostly operating under the JD Sports name and a further 92 fashion stores, trading as Bank or Scotts.

Liberty’s sales rise by 9%. Liberty, the owner of the London department store, fabric company and luxury goods brand, has reported a 9% rise in sales for 2008. However, higher interest costs caused losses to widen slightly. Sales at its flagship store in London’s West End almost matched the 2007 record of £32m.

New releases help Game Group profits rise by 76%. Game Group, the video game retailer, has announced a 76% increase in pre-tax profits to £120m. The retailer was helped by a 32% increase in sales to £1.97 billion during a year which saw an unprecedented number of high profile new releases.