Joules nearly doubles profits after strong year

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The Independent Online

Joules nearly doubled its profits last year and remains upbeat about its growth prospects, despite trading conditions on the high street remaining "tough".

The fashion chain, which has 40 company-owned shops and four franchise stores, is understood to have recently hired advisers at Rothschild to review its strategic options, which are likely to focus on selling a minority stake to fund its expansion plans.

But Tom Joule, the retailer's founder, does not plan to sell the chain. Joules, one of Middle England's favourite retailers of clothing, declined to comment yesterday.

The retailer delivered pre-tax profits of £4.86m for the year to 30 May 2010, compared with £2.48m over a 16-month period the previous year.

Rob Hicking, the finance director of Joules, said it had "grown all areas of the business". In addition to ramping up its wholesale operation, Joules was also boosted by fast-growing online sales. This helped lift group sales by 10 per cent to £51.17m last year, compared with the 16 months to the end of May 2009. The privately held company's directors did not recommend a dividend last year. Mr Hicking said that so far this financial year Joules' like-for-like sales were in positive territory but he declined to provide a figure.

Many retailers have reported a slowdown in footfall and spending in their stores since the first week of January, in the wake of fears over unemployment and the strength of the economic recovery. Mr Hicking said: "We recognise it is tough but we are confident of continuing to grow. We have got a good brand proposition that puts us on track for a positive future." Joules will open a further four stores before the end of May, bringing its total number of new shops this financial year to 12.

It 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. It plans to open its first store this spring.

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