EWM to relaunch Austin Reed as group sales rise

Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group is looking to ramp up its store openings after unveiling ambitious plans to relaunch the Austin Reed name on the back of solid full-year results.

Across its brands, the group currently operates 981 standalone stores throughout the UK, as well as a string of concessions and e-commerce sites.

The group bought the venerable fashion brand out of administration earlier this year and now plans to invest some £100 million into a relaunch over the next three years.

Overall, the firm hopes to open 200 additional stores – including 50 Austin Reed outlets – by early 2018. As well as its eponymous core retail business and Austin Reed, Edinburgh Woollen Mill owns fashion brands Peacocks and Jane Norman.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

News of the accelerated opening programme came as the group, which also owns homewares retailer Ponden Mill and golfing brand Pro-Quip, announced strong like-for-like sales across all its brands in the year to 27 February.

Total sales increased to some £576.3 million from £562.6m the year before, with profits before tax and exceptional items nudging up 2.4 per cent to £90.9m. It opened a total of 43 stores in the UK and Ireland during the period under review.

Steve Simpson, group commercial director of Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group, said: “By focusing on quality and giving customers exceptional value for money and positive customer service, we have continued to grow despite increased competition. We have been able to do this because each of our brands is absolutely focused on its customers.

“With the addition of Austin Reed, which we acquired earlier this year, as well as Country Casuals and Viyella, we aim to continue this organic growth, while always being ready to respond to other opportunities as they arise.”

He added: “We have worked hard this year to broaden the demographic that Edinburgh Woollen Mill appeals to, boosting sales for a brand that was already a category leader in its chosen market.”

The group now operates 981 standalone stores across the UK, as well as a string of concessions and e-commerce sites. Peacocks relaunched its website in November 2012 and is said to be growing online sales at 46 per cent per annum.

Earnings before exceptional items, interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation were up to 4.9 per cent to £96.6m. However, at the bottom line, profit before tax fell 14.5 per cent to £89.8m, largely due to a restatement required under accounting rules.

The firm acquired the Country Casuals and Viyella brands this year.