N Brown confident despite profit warning
Shares in JD Williams and Simply Be owner N Brown plunged over 22% in early trading on Thursday after the business predicted a challenging time for profits in the 53 weeks to March 4 next year, due to issues from the supply chain to inflation.
That said, trading for the 52 weeks to February 26 this year was “pleasing” with growth in product revenue from its strategic brands of 9% year on year. And total active customers grew 3% to 2.9 million. The company also expects to report “all financial metrics in line with the guidance provided at the Q3 update on 20 January, including Adjusted EBITDA between £93 million and £96 million.
And it said its “robust balance sheet positions us well for the future, with net debt at year end of c. £260 million and available liquidity of more than £200 million”.
But what about that outlook for the current year? N Brown said that “as a result of the escalating and fast-moving inflationary environment, we currently anticipate that Adjusted EBITDA for FY23 will be similar to the level reported in FY21, before growing again as the macroeconomic headwinds recede and the group's strategy is executed”.
While that didn’t please investors — as that share price plunge showed — the company said it enters FY23 “with confidence in generating revenue growth from our strategic brands”. And within other brands, the managed decline in revenues experienced in recent years “will moderate significantly as we no longer cycle against the drag from the Figleaves website closure”.
It added that retail customer demand is “normalising as we exit Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, with clothing driving demand and customers moving back into categories such as dresses and formalwear. The softer conditions in the online home market, as previously reported, are assumed to continue”.
But its Financial Services revenue trajectory is expected to continue to improve in FY23, following better product revenue performance in FY22 flowing through to the debtor book.
While “proactive actions taken by management largely mitigated the operational impact of the global supply chain challenges during FY22”, it saw a net drag to margin due to higher freight rates.
Those freight rates had been expected to moderate but “are now assumed to continue at an elevated level for FY23”. Plus it expects the “well-publicised inflationary headwinds to affect our wider cost base”. Although “management actions are planned across all areas to mitigate the effect of these pressures, we expect a net increase in the cost to sales ratio in FY23 inclusive of continuing our strategic investments in areas such as brand marketing”.
Product gross margin “is expected to improve driven by the group's planned pricing response to cost inflation, the movement of the product mix back into clothing, and continued initiatives including advancing data usage to optimise pricing strategies”.
CEO Steve Johnson said: “I am pleased with the progress which we continue to make and despite the volatile backdrop, our expected full-year numbers remain in line with previous guidance. It's encouraging to see full-year customer numbers return to growth and to be closing the year with a strong balance sheet.
“We enter the new financial year with continued confidence in our proposition. We are not immune to the supply chain and inflationary cost pressures being seen across the wider market, however, we continue to take proactive actions to offset these and mitigate the impact on our FY23 performance.”
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