EWM plans extra jobs on back of surge in profits

EWM's shop in Edinburgh. It has built on sales to the over-40s. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

EWM's shop in Edinburgh. It has built on sales to the over-40s. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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FASHION and textiles retailer Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group plans to open 76 stores over the coming year, creating more than 1,000 jobs, following a strong financial performance last year.

The announcement came on the back of record profits at the Langholm-based group, which now employs more than 10,000 staff throughout the UK and Republic of Ireland across its Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Peacocks, Jane Norman and Ponden Home brands.

For the year to 1 March, profits before tax rose 26 per cent to £71.3 million on total sales of £551.9m. Although that was down on the £566.7m seen in the previous period, the company said the fall reflected a number of permanent and temporary store closures and a 53-week trading year in 2013.

It said cost control, particularly around supplies of cashmere, wool and cotton, along with a “relentless focus on product quality, value for money and customer experience” were responsible for strong margin growth and consistent sales performance.

During the year, the group opened 34 stores, creating more than 500 jobs in the process.

Its Edinburgh Woollen Mill brand, famous for its Harris Tweed, cashmere and knitwear collections aimed at the over-40s, achieved sales of £168.5m, only marginally down on the previous year despite the temporary closure of one of its largest stores due to fire and the permanent closure of several under-performing outlets.

Online sales grew 28 per cent, thanks to the recent implementation of a new IT platform and the ability to allow in-store ordering and click and collect services.

The group’s Peacocks arm, which focuses on value fashion, grew total sales by 4 per cent to £324.9m with online sales rocketing by 221 per cent. The business, which received an £80m investment following its acquisition out of administration in 2012, now has 451 stores in the UK and 14 stores overseas.

Steve Simpson, group commercial director of Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group, said: “From discerning baby-boomers to cost conscious mums, our brands continue to be guided by the needs of their customers and are being repaid with their loyalty.

“Whilst each of our brands has a distinct customer focus, they are united by a common commitment to excellence in product quality, customer experience and value for money. Alongside a truly multi-channel model, continued investment, innovation and strong cost control, the group has once again delivered a strong sales performance and outstanding profit growth.”

He added: “We are particularly encouraged by the sales and profit performance of the Edinburgh Woollen Mill business, which has grown consistently to become a category leader in the over-40s customer segment. Leveraging its strength into a broader demographic, both at home and overseas, in store as well as online, is a key focus of the group in 2015 and beyond.”

The highest-paid director at the firm saw their pay package almost unchanged at £229,000.

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