Nov 5, 2020
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N Brown sales drop but it cites continued recovery, raises extra £100m

Nov 5, 2020

N Brown’s half-year to the end of August showed a “continued recovery and clear opportunity to accelerate [its] profitable growth strategy”, the company said on Thursday. It added that it’s launching a £100 million equity fundraising.

N Brown/Simply Be

Looking at the results, its “continued recovery” didn't stop group revenue falling 17.6% to £356.7 million in the period. Within that, product revenue was down 20.5% to £224.5 million and financial services revenue fell only 12.2% £132.2 million.

That left the company with a fall in adjusted EBITDA of 11.3% to £48 million. Meanwhile, statutory profit before tax dropped 25% to £14.1 million and adjusted profit before tax was down 28.9% at £22.6 million. The company also managed to continue reducing its debt.

Looking at is individual brands and categories, JD Williams sales fell 16.2% to £63.4 million, Simply Be fell 12.2% to £53.5 million, and Ambrose Wilson fell 36.6% to £14.7 million. Overall, womenswear was down 17.6%.

The menswear division, which is all about the Jacamo brand, fell 18.8% to £26.3 million.

Like other companies operating online, N Brown said it saw a lower rate of returns during the half year, compared to historic averages, with overall returns around 10 percentage points lower year-on-year.

Overall product revenue fell nearly 29% in the first quarter but was down only 12% in Q2.

The company said that the half-year’s improved product revenue trajectory during the second quarter was supported by the launch of its Home Essentials line.

And its digital transformation accelerated with 92% of its product coming through digital channels during the half, an increase of eight percentage points. The company also made significant operating cost efficiencies that offset more than 90% of its gross margin decline.

While the biggest issue around the business during the first half was how it was affected by the pandemic, there was plenty of business-as-usual activity to help it along and that included the ongoing simplification of its brand portfolio. It said it “successfully migrated High & Mighty and House of Bath customers to Jacamo and Ambrose Wilson, two of the core brands”.

Additionally, a greater proportion (65%) of product is being designed in-house, while “key brand partners such as Ralph Lauren and Hugo Boss are extending the ‘best’ element of our range”. 

As mentioned, it added the Home Essentials offer to its line-up too, as well as making improvements to its technology behind-the-scenes with an advanced merchandising tool.

Meanwhile, as we said, the company has also launched an equity raise design to generate £100 million that’s “fully supported by Lord Alliance of Manchester”. The billionaire is the firm’s chairman and holds a third of its shares. The British-Iranian businessman, who’s also a Liberal Democrat politician, has a track record that includes co-founding Coats Viyella, as well as various philanthropic activities.

The company said it “sees a compelling opportunity to de-risk and accelerate its refreshed strategy by eliminating unsecured net debt and bringing forward strategic investment” via the new fundraising.

The offer is open to all qualifying shareholders at a price of 57p per share and on the basis of 11 Open Offer Shares for every 18 Existing Ordinary Shares.

It also has reached agreement with its banks to extend its financing facilities.

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