House of Fraser jumps 25%: Profits up on reorganisation and cost-cutting

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The Independent Online
HOUSE of Fraser, the department store chain being sold off by the Fayed brothers, made operating profits of pounds 45m in the year to January, a 25 per cent increase on the previous year.

The increase, revealed in the pathfinder prospectus issued yesterday, reflects the group's success in controlling costs, although sales also rose by 4 per cent to pounds 721.7m. Excluding store closures, and adjusting for an extra week's trading in 1992, sales were up 8.6 per cent.

Andrew Jennings, managing director, said the group had cut the number of full-time workers in favour of part-time staff, available at busy shopping times. That had led to a 25 per cent reduction in the number of full-time equivalent staff in the past two years.

Full-time staff now account for 46 per cent of the total, down from 60 per cent two years ago, and are expected to fall to 40 per cent.

The group is also reorganising its stores to reflect their size and the profile of the local population. 'Traditionally, department stores have tried to be all things to all people,' Mr Jennings said. 'That is no longer viable.' Stores have been divided into three sizes and four customer profiles, and only the largest will contain all departments.

Earnings per share were 10.1p and the group says it would have paid a 5p dividend. The price of the issue will be announced on 17 March, but analysts expect the company to be valued at about pounds 450m. The group will carry pounds 93m of debt, equal to 37.5 per cent of net assets.