Being in the red is the new black

PRINGLE of Scotland continued to suffer heavy losses last year and admitted it isn't expecting a return to the black in the short term.

Latest accounts for the iconic knitwear company show that its Hong Kong-based owners, the Fang family, have pumped further cash into the business with 3.2 million invested in 2010 following investments totalling 13m in the previous two years.

The heavy investment into the Edinburgh-registered firm forms part of a major repositioning of the Pringle brand to widen its appeal outside of the traditional golfing market.

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While the firm's change of image has won the praise of movie and music stars including Madonna, Claudia Schiffer and Scarlett Johansson, the business has struggled financially although losses are narrowing.

In its newly-filed accounts, Pringle reported pre-tax losses of 6.7m in the 44 weeks to 30 January, down from 9.3m in the previous full year.

Collective losses in the last three years now stand at more than 24m, blamed on heavy investment in developing the Pringle name globally.

"Given the continued investment in the brand, the directors are not expecting to report operating profits in the short term," said the directors' report to the accounts.

But the report stressed that the company was progressing in line with the long-term strategy for the business.

"The directors are satisfied with the financial position and future prospects of the company and with the financial support for the group's continued strategic investment."

Turnover fell to 11.1m from 17.3m, partly due to the shorter accounting period but also blamed on the impact of the recession.

The average number of staff employed by the business fell to 122 from 188 during the year.

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Mary-Adair Macaire - previously global marketing boss of French fashion house Chanel and a lawyer by training - was brought in as chief executive of Pringle in 2008 as part of the company's efforts to develop the brand.

Following the closure of its Hawick factory during the same year, the company - whose roots date back to 1815 - has been outsourcing much of its designs and garment production to companies in the Borders.