Poundstretcher joins perfume war

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BROWN & JACKSON, the Poundstretcher discount stores group, is joining the war against the upmarket perfume houses by selling Yves St Laurent, Christian Dior and Giorgio Armani fragances this Christmas at big discounts to normal prices.

Ian Gray, chief executive, said 50 stores would stock the perfumes, selling them at discounts of about 30 per cent. The discounted lines would also include Givenchy, Aramis and Paco Rabane.

The row between the makers and retailers erupted again last weekend after it emerged that glossy magazine publishers had refused to accept advertisements from Kingfisher-owned Superdrug.

The Office of Fair Trading is examining the dispute and is expected to rule soon. At present Superdrug, Poundstretcher and other discounters like Amber Day have to source from shadowy 'grey market' suppliers.

B&J said yesterday that Poundstretcher had stemmed the declines in like-for-like sales and widened margins in the three months since its restructuring in June. But its shares fell 1/2 p to 7 3/4 p as it reported a worsening in its pre-tax losses from pounds 4.2m to pounds 9.7m in the six months to 30 June. The second set of interim figures was because of the changed year-end.

Like-for-like sales were flat in September, compared with a 5 per cent fall in the six months to June, when the group was operating under serious cash constraints, since ended by a pounds 15.6m cash injection.

Store refurbishment is progressing more slowly than planned because of a manpower shortage. But B&J still expects to refit all 232 stores by next September.