• FY profit rose 2.5% to GBP96.9m (US$157m)
  • Group revenue climbed 4.8% to GBP753.2m  
  • Like-for-like sales grew by 1.6%

Internet and catalogue home shopping retailer N Brown Group Plc today (1 May) said it is "confident" in its outlook for 2012 after booking a 2.5% rise in full-year profit.

Pre-tax profit in the year to 3 March rose to GBP96.9m (US$157m), while total group revenue climbed 4.8% to GBP753.2m. Like-for-like sales grew by 1.6%.

Faced with rising input prices and falling disposable income, the retailer reduced prices and increased promotional activity to stimulate demand. This led to a 0.8% decline in gross margin rate to 53.0%.

Operating profit also slipped by GBP0.6m to GBP102.0m, after absorbing GBP5.2m of losses on opening the Simply Be rd concept stores and expanding internationally.

But the business singled out the "first ever profit" from its Figleaves online lingerie site and "good sales growth" from High & Mighty. Online sales of GBP377m also accounted for 50% of total sales for the first time, it said.

"We are pleased to announce another robust set of results despite a difficult trading environment where our customers have seen their discretionary income become increasingly hard-pressed," said chairman Lord Alliance of Manchester.

"We have continued to focus on our multi-channel strategy, investing in our online trading platform, whilst also expanding our international activities.

"Although we do not expect the market to materially improve, we believe consumer confidence will begin to pick up later this year and we are confident that our strategy will continue to deliver in 2012."

The retailer, which targets mature and larger customers through brands including Simply Be, Marisota and Jacamo, said like-for-like sales in the first eight weeks of its new financial year are up 0.6%.

Looking ahead, plans include lower prices on autumn lines, and international expansion, especially in the US.