New Look lagging in the internet shopping race

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The Independent Online

New Look, the private equity-backed discount fashion chain, has admitted it could be up to two years before it invests in developing a cyber-shopping site that customers can use to place orders.

Its lack of transactional website could be a problem when it attempts to seek a new stock market listing. Debenhams, which re-floated last month, flagged that its internet site was "under severe strain" in its listing prospectus.

Although New Look is investing £100m in developing its business over the coming 12 months, the bulk of this will go on opening new space.

Phil Wrigley, the chief executive, said the company was taking a "fairly cautious" approach to its internet site. Its hesitation means New Look's rivals will steal a march on the chain when it comes to internet shopping, which is growing far quicker than overall retail sales.

For most retailers, internet-based sales account for 10 per cent of their turnover, providing a useful alternative stream of income. Last year New Look had annual sales of £862.2m, an increase of 6 per cent on the previous 12 months.

Mr Wrigley said the chain's customers had signalled that their preference was for it to develop its product ranges rather than its website. The company is known for its womenswear but has added men's, children's and maternity lines as well as separate ranges for very tall and very small customers.

"When we have the time and resources our customers would like a transactional website," Mr Wrigley said, adding that this was at least "12 to 24 months off".

He said the company, which was taken private two years ago, would probably re-float next year.