Niche clothing markets keep N Brown ahead of the game

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The Independent Online

Fashionable underwear and dresses for plus-size thirtysomething women have helped the catalogue business N Brown report a surprise profit.

Despite turmoil on the high street and shoppers cutting back, N Brown's online lingerie business Figleaves posted its first ever profit.

The Manchester-based home shopping group posted a 2.5 per cent rise in profit to £96.9m in the year to 3 March, ahead of analysts' forecast of £94.5m and up on last year's £94.5m.

Its plus size brands Simply Be, Jacamo and Marisota reported strong growth and it has been opening stores for the Simply Be brand to "test a multi-channel offer".

Alan White, the chief executive, said this multi-channel strategy and its focus on niche customers such as tall men at its High & Mighty brand and larger women with Simply Be helped it "overcome the challenging macro-economic conditions".

It launched a US website for Simply Be in 2010, and sales there rose from £800,000 to £4.8m.

For the year the group's revenue rose 4.8 per cent to £753.2m, and like-for-like sales were up 0.6 per cent in the eight weeks to 28 April.