Selfridges gives Sears a boost

A strong performance at Selfridges, the Oxford Street department store, contributed to improved results at Sears, the retail group that includes the Freemans catalogue, Dolcis, Hush Puppy and Adams childrenswear.

Selfridges' annual profits increased 35 per cent to £28.4m, helped by the early stages of a £50m refurbishment programme. Sears plans to open a smaller branch of Selfridges at Heathrow's Terminal One later this year to capitalise on the strength of the brand.

However, Liam Strong, chief executive, sounded a note of caution about current trading: "We are concerned about consumer behaviour. The first 11 weeks of the year has been challenging and the consumer remains cautious and discerning."

Sears' pre-tax profits increased 11.2 per cent to £153.8m in the year to January on sales up 7 per cent to £2.1bn.

Its shoe interests are being reduced to concentrate on four formats, Shoe Express, Shoe City, Hush Puppy and Dolcis. Though margins fell, profits rose nearly 16 per cent to £38m.

The Freemans catalogue business improved in a static market with profits up slightly to £41.3m. Losses at Olympus Sports continued. About 40 stores will close this year and the remaining 100 outlets will be re-launched. Mr Strong denied the division would be sold when profits had been restored.

The dividend rose to 2.9p. Comment, page 33