Retail boost for Jacques Vert

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BY NIGEL COPE A strong performance in the retail division has helped the womenswear group Jacques Vert to improved profits at the half-year stage.

Operating profits in the department store concessions and stand-alone shops nearly quadrupled in the six months to 29 October. Group pre-tax profits rose by 63 per cent to £1.36m on sales up13 per cent to £24m. Alan Green, chairman, said sales in the shops and concessions were up 14 per cent and 20 per cent respectively on last year and the early days of the sale had gone well.

Jacques Vert has manufacturing, wholesale and retail operations and specialises in what it describes as occasion-wear for weddings and trips to society events such as Ascot and Henley. Its main target market is 35-to 55-year-old women.

In the last year, Jacques Vert has added new labels to its existing ranges, including Gabriella Rossi, which makes clothes for shorter women.

According to the company's research, 54 per cent of women are under 5ft 4in tall and the Gabriella Rossi line is aimed at those tired of buying larger items and then having them altered.

So far the new range has been targeted at independent wholesalers but it should be hitting the shops soon. Mr Green said the range was meeting its sales targets so far.

The company said its other new range, JV by Jacques Vert, had also been well received and the overall order book was encouraging.

Jacques Vert has spent £400,000 on new systems at its factory in Washington, Tyne and Wear, which will enable more flexible production. A new computer system is scheduled for completion by December.

Borrowings, which stood at £2m two years ago, were also eliminated during the half-year.

Robert Snaife of Societe Generale Strauss Turnbull has left his full-year forecast of £3.2m-£3.3m unchanged.

"In difficult circumstances the performance is very satisfactory," he said. In the half-year, earnings per share doubled to 9.6p and the interim dividend was raised by 50 per cent to 2.25p.