• Pre-tax profit down 6.7% to GBP41.8m
  • Gross margin slipped 1.6% to 53.3%
  • Revenue up 4.3% to GBP379.3m

Strong growth in men's wear and footwear has helped N Brown Group to 4.3% rise in first-half revenue, with the internet and catalogue home shopping retailer booking a "very encouraging" 9.4% jump in like-for-like sales at the start of the second half.

But the retailer said the wet summer had "depressed" sales of ladies' clothing by 2% - a category that accounts for 49% of all sales - contributing to a 6.7% fall in pre-tax profit to GBP41.8m (US$67.3m).

Gross margin rate  in the 26 weeks to 1 September fell 1.6% to 53.3%. 

Operating profit edged down 2.8% to GBP45.7m after absorbing an expected GBP1.1m loss from the company's Simply B concept stores and a GBP1.3m increase in the depreciation charge.

Double-digit revenue growth in younger brands like Jacamo and Simply Be, coupled with strong online trading, pushed total group revenue up to GBP379.3m, compared to GBP363.7m last year.

Like-for-like sales rose 3.7%, helped by the company's men's wear, footwear and leisure divisions, while e-commerce sales jumped 12% to GBP196m driven by mobile enabled websites.

Chairman Andrew Higginson said: "The strategy to focus on the development of our core brands and our online trading capability is delivering positive results, as evidenced by our strong start to the second half."

The multi-channel retailer revealed it had a "strong" start to the second half with sales up 10.1% during the six weeks ended 13 October, while like-for-like sales increased 9.4%.

Chief executive Alan White said: "This gives us some optimism in the outlook for our second half performance."