Younger image puts Clarks back in the black

C&J CLARK, the family-owned shoe retailer and manufacturer, has reported a return to profit after a year boosted by new ranges, heavy advertising and publicity coups such as rock bands like Oasis and The Verve choosing to wear Clarks' desert boots.

However, Roger Pedder, Clarks' chairman, said it was premature to be talking again about a stock market flotation. "We've had a good year but we'd like another one before we say to the shareholders, `look, if you want to float it, you can'."

Clarks reported a pounds 35m profit for the year to January compared with a pounds 400,000 loss after exceptional costs in 1996/7. Like-for-like sales grew by 9.2 per cent in the Clarks and K Retail chains, well ahead of the industry average.

Mr Pedder said Clarks had benefited from the dismantling of Sears' British Shoe Corporation. Clarks has increased its market share in men's shoes and marginally in children's shoes while it has maintained its position in ladies' footwear.

The "Act your shoe size not your age" advertising campaign has helped re-position the company's image in a younger market, Mr Pedder said.

Operating profits on continuing operations rose 25 per cent to pounds 37.8m on sales 3 per cent up to pounds 743m.

Profits have increased due to the lower cost base in manufacturing and sourcing following a restructuring by the company in 1996.