Not quite What Everyone Wants

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The Independent Online
WEW, the What Everyone Wants discount chain formerly known as Amber Day, is missing out on the sales increases in yesterday's official statistics. Its sales in February and March were 'very poor', improving only at the end of March, and are currently just level with last year, writes Heather Connon.

Keith Paskins, finance director, attributed the dull performance to poor weather in Scotland - which accounts for a large part of the group's business - as well as concern about imminent tax increases. But the group said it remained confident about results for the year as a whole.

The comments came as the group reported a 16 per cent increase in pre-tax profits, to pounds 5.2m, in the six months to 29 January, on sales up 8.3 per cent at pounds 61.3m.

In the last full year, the group lost pounds 2m after provisions to extricate itself from loss-making businesses and for changes in accounting for stock. Since then it has raised pounds 15.5m in a rights issue - leaving it with cash of pounds 4.4m - and has been improving stock and buying systems.

The buying changes are aimed at increasing the proportion of stock purchased direct from suppliers, largely overseas. That should help it to improve gross margins - which Mr Carr believes are 4 percentage points too low - but has meant the group has had to recruit more experienced buying staff.

Sales at the WEW chain rose 3 per cent excluding new openings, although the group said that was depressed by concessions introduced during the year.

Earnings per share were 2.72p, up 9 per cent, and the interim dividend is 0.35p. That compares with 1.1p last time as the group rebalanced the interim and final payments following a cut in last year's final payment from 2p to 0.25p. The shares closed 2p higher at 45p.

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