Feelgood factor eludes retailers

The feelgood factor looked as elusive as ever on the high street yesterday when two clothing retailers, Etam and Austin Reed, reported sharply reduced profits while the Wickes DIY group warned that its first- half profits would fall "significantly below" last year's pounds 9m. The company blamed the poor winter weather and the lack of improvement in the housing market.

Only DFS Furniture, the out- of-town specialist, managed to buck the trend with a 16 per cent rise in profits to pounds 15m at the half-year stage. Recently knighted chairman Sir Graham Kirkham also unveiled an expansion programme that will see DFS open stores in London for the first time this year. Stores in Croydon, Sidcup and New Malden will open by July.

"We are not budgeting for any upturn but if there is any improvement we will be able to take advantage," he said.

Etam said the market remained "difficult" and the 226- strong chain has seen sales decline in recent weeks as its customers continue to seek discounted merchandise. However, Austin Reed is seeing a glimmer of recovery with sales in the last 12 weeks 8.6 per cent higher than the same period last year.

Finance director Chris Thomson, who takes over as Austin Reed's chief executive in June, said: "I think there are some encouraging signs that customers are coming back to the high street. I'm not sure it's a feelgood factor. It's just less of a feelbad factor."

Austin Reed saw pre-exceptional profits slump from pounds 5.8m to pounds 3.4m due to a poor year in its womenswear division. The company moved from its traditional tailored look to a more fashion-conscious offer but found it unpopular with customers. The stores had to discount the stock to clear it. This year the company has returned to more formal, structured suits and says sales are responding.

Menswear performed better though margins were affected by higher marketing costs. Austin Reed has opened a shop under the Marlboro Classics name at Heathrow's Terminal One in the last few weeks. Trading is strong and more may be added.

Mr Thomson played down speculation that the company may be taken over by Moss Bros, Burton or Next. "We have received no approaches or expressions of interest," he said. However, he confirmed that he had twice been asked by the Stock Exchange if any approaches had been made after recent sharp increases in the Austin Reed share price.

Etam's tale of woe continued as it attempts to move away from a culture of permanent discounting. Reporting a dramatic slump in profits from pounds 10.7m to pounds 152,000 for the six months to 31 January, Etam warned that it was likely to record operating losses higher than the pounds 660,000 deficit reported in the first half last year. This is due to sluggish sales of "inadequate" merchandise which have further been depressed by attempts to sell at closer to full price.

Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier leaguePlus updates from Everton vs Palace
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Market Risk & Control Manager

Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Head of Audit

To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam