Thursday 22 August 2019

Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group posts profit despite tough times for high street

The company also said it has invested in turning around the collapsed Jaeger brand.

Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group also owns the Peacocks and Jaeger brands (PA)
Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group also owns the Peacocks and Jaeger brands (PA)

By Alys Key, Press Association City Reporter

Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group has unveiled a profit despite “challenging” high street conditions, in a period which saw it add several new brands to its portfolio.

The company, which is owned by retail billionaire Philip Day, has filed new accounts to Companies House showing a pre-tax profit of £81.2 million for the 18 months to August 25 2018.

Revenues for the period hit £935.8 million.

Core brands Peacocks and Edinburgh Woollen Mill both reported profits, bringing in £66.5 million and £32.1 million.

Jaeger, which was acquired by the group following its collapse in 2017, made a loss before tax of £3.86 million on a 12-month basis.

In the face of a challenging retail environment, our commitment to the physical high street and relentless focus on our customers' wants and needs has enabled us to, again, stand out from the crowd Steve Simpson, chief commercial officer

This was half the run rate loss of £7.1 million in the year prior to the brand’s administration, and follows a period of heavy investment by EWM Group including the opening of seven new standalone stores and 11 concessions.

Steve Simpson, chief commercial officer at the group, said: “In the face of a challenging retail environment, our commitment to the physical high street and relentless focus on our customers’ wants and needs has enabled us to, again, stand out from the crowd.”

Jaeger is one of a number of brands picked up by the group in the last few years, as it seeks to grow its luxury division.

It has also snapped up Austin Reed, Berwin, and the Calvetron Brands portfolio which includes Jacques Vert, Dash, Eastex and Windmoor.

Following the buying spree, EWM Group created a new head office in London’s Victoria combining the teams of each brand.

Meanwhile, the group said its resistance to “discount culture” had allowed it to ease pressure on margins, while a focus on quality is expected to yield results as consumers become more environmentally conscious.

Mr Simpson said this was motivated by a trend for shoppers to make buying decisions “on the basis of long-term value rather than impulse”.

“This means that we must retail a product not only at an attractive price point, but also ensure it has a fashionable look and inherent product quality. In short, we continue to focus on providing exceptional value for money.”

The group has previously expressed its intention to roll out Days, its department store concept which currently operates at a single location in Carmarthen, to as many as 50 sites.

However, the expansion has been put on the back-burner while the group prioritises investment in the luxury division.

Mr Day was also one of the bidders circling House of Fraser last year as the department store went into administration, though he lost out to Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct.

The tycoon has more recently launched a bid to take over womenswear retailer Bonmarche. Although the offer is still on the table, Mr Day’s team said in May they would take a “step back” to see if the company’s current management can deliver on their strategy.

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