N Brown to slash stores and jobs

N Brown Group, the parent company of fashion retailers JD Williams, Jacamo and Simple Be, is consulting on plans to close 20 stores, with the possible loss of around 240 jobs.

The stores are being closed ahead of their lease expiry dates, with the decision being based on poor footfall figures and the fact they only generated two per cent of the group’s revenue and an earnings before tax loss of £3 million.

The group’s results for the 13 week period to 2 June stated that the focus is on becoming a global online retailer.

“Given continued very disappointing footfall, and despite significant cost efficiencies being achieved, we are today entering into a consultation with store colleagues,” read the document, adding that the consultation process will be completed around the time of half year results in October.

“Should the decision be taken to close all 20 stores, we anticipate an exceptional cost of £18-22 million, of which approximately half will be in cash.”

The Usdaw union estimated the move would put around 240 jobs at risk of redundancy, with 15 head office jobs and 35 distribution roles at Duke Mill in Shaw impacted.

Michelle Byrne, Usdaw area organiser, commented: “Usdaw will enter into consultation talks with the company towards the end of the month when we will interrogate the business case for the proposed store closures.”

N Brown chief executive Angela Spindler said that although she was satisfied with the first quarter results, this was a challenging period for fashion retail generally.

“In line with our online strategy, and given continued weak high street footfall, we have today commenced a consultation process with colleagues over the future of our small store estate,” she stated. “This action has not been taken lightly and we will do all we can to support the colleagues affected during this process.”

Group revenue was up just 0.4 per cent, with overall product revenue down by 2.8 per cent. However, online revenue rose by 3 per cent, with 75 per cent of revenue now generated online, up 5 percentage points year-on-year.

For new customers, online penetration was 84 per cent, up by 6 per cent year-on-year, and overall traffic increased 3 per cent year-on-year. Smartphones now account for 57 per cent of all sessions - up from 51 per cent last year - with mobile devices as a whole accounting for 75 per cent.

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