Internet sales drive profit rise at House of Fraser

BOOMING internet and mobile sales helped department store chain House of Fraser report record annual sales last year.

E-commerce sales increased by 41 per cent and now represent 12.2 per cent of sales. Picture: PA

Chief executive John King said the performance was partly down to improvement of the group’s website. “The improved performance has been driven by the continued success of our key strategic pillars. Our online business has performed exceptionally strongly and has substantial potential,” he said.

Turnover rose 3.6 per cent on a like-for-like basis to £1.2 billion, with earnings for the year to 25 January up 8.3 per cent to £60.2m. E-commerce sales increased by 41 per cent and now represent 12.2 per cent of sales.

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The chain, which has just been sold to China’s San- power Group, cut its net debt by £25.8m to £131.4m. On Saturday the group confirmed it had sold an 89 per cent stake to Nanjing Xinjiekou Department Store in a deal that values the business at more than £480m, including debt. It plans to open up to 50 stores across Asia, with the focus being on mainland China.

Its fortunes contrasted with those of high street rival Debenhams, which yesterday set out its plans for reviving the department store chain in the wake of a slide in profits.

The moves, outlined by chief executive Michael Sharp, follow a “challenging” period in which profits fell 24.5 per cent to £85.2m in the 26 weeks to 1 March.

Debenhams said it had trailed behind its rivals in terms of delivery options. It has pledged to improve in time for Christmas, with next-day click and collect and a 10pm cut-off for next-day delivery.

Meanwhile,JD Sports Fashion said “significant improvement” at Blacks and Millets had lifted the outdoor brands out of the red following a two-year struggle.

The group, which bought a controlling stake in Scottish outdoor retailer Tiso last year, said annual underlying profits were 27 per cent higher at £77m as continued strong growth for core sports retail brands JD and Size more than offset bigger losses at its fashion division.

Shares in Debenhams closed up 3.45p at 81p and in JD Sports were down 14p at 1,600p.