Clothing retail group Austin Reed made a small profit in the year to 28 January 2006, improving margins and reducing debt in the process.

The company edged back into the black with a profit before tax of GBP0.2m (US$0.35m), compared with a loss of GBP1.9m. Turnover dipped slightly to GBP103.2m.

For the Austin Reed brand, gross margins were up 3.2%, while total sales edged up 1%. The brand's like-for-like sales are up 10.9% so far this year.

CC - rebranded from Country Casuals last year - saw total sales fall 9% to GBP43.8m, but like-for-like sales so far this year are up 12.1%. Gross margins increased by 3.5% on the year.

Group chief executive Nick Hollingworth said he was pleased with the results and with reducing debt from GBP11.6m to GBP7.3m, but described the retail market as still "challenging". The company does not expect early levels of growth for this year to be maintained.