Joules bucks high-street trend with profits leap

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The Independent Online

The fashion chain Joules has delivered soaring underlying sales over the past year to buck the downturn in the retail sector.

Joules, which has 46 stores including four franchise outlets, also revealed plans to open around 10 new shops before January, including in Witney and Edinburgh over the next two weeks.

Tom Joule, the retailer's founder, said its like-for-like sales had rocketed by 27 per cent over the year to April 2011 and attributed this to the quality of its clothing for men, women and kids.

He said: "Joules has captured people's imagination. What you get for your money, for the quality of product, is incredible value. And I think people have spotted that in difficult times they can buy, wear, wash and pass down [our clothing] from one generation to another."

While he admitted that trading in February was tough, he said sales growth had come back in March and added that Joules stores in certain areas were "performing incredibly well".

The increase in underlying sales over the past year is likely to push up its profits sharply. For the year to 30 May 2010, Joules posted pre-tax profits of £4.86m, compared with £2.48m over a 16-month period previously. Mr Joule, who owns 92 per cent of the retailer, said: "We still have a phenomenal growth story."

The founder vehemently denied that he planned to sell a stake in the business to a private-equity firm to fuel its expansion. Following Joules hiring the former Fat Face chief executive Louise Barnes as chairman and Colin Porter as chief operating officer last year, the retailer had been linked to a potential fund raising.

But Mr Joule said: "I can categorically deny that I plan at this point to sell a minority stake."

The retailer, which also has 10 concessions, is confident of renewing its banking facilities in June 2011 on similar terms. Last year, Joules acquired Lions Rampant, a sports brand that sells online and through 16 stockists, and plans are afoot to open stores.

Founded in 1994, Joules has an army of fans in Middle England and the retailer had a substantial presence this year at the Badminton Horse Trials which were held near Bath over the Easter weekend.

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