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New Look hails strong Xmas

BUDGET fashion chain New Look yesterday said it was undecided on a return to the stock market as it reported strong Christmas trading.

Like-for-like sales in the UK grew 5.9 per cent in the 14 weeks to 2 January, while total turnover including overseas operations was up 14.4 per cent.

The “disposable fashion” group, backed by private equity firms Apax and Permira, is expected to float on the London Stock Exchange this year, after being taken private in 2004 for £699m. Asked about the possibility of an initial public offering (IPO), chief executive Carl McPhail said: “We’ve said before that we’d consider our options and that’s what we will continue to do. The board has made no decision.”

He added: “We have had another successful Christmas, growing sales and profitability in the face of difficult market conditions.

“Looking ahead, while we remain cautious about consumer spending and expect sentiment to remain subdued, we are well placed to continue growth and build upon our success.”

New Look said it had kept margins steady and grown market share to become the UK’s second biggest womenswear retailer in terms of value, enjoying a 5.6 per cent slice of clothing, accessories and footwear.

The company trades from 1,012 stores, 603 of which are in the UK. Its 26,000-square-foot flagship store will open on Oxford Street next month.

“We think in the longer term we’ve got the opportunity to grow our space and potentially double it,” said McPhail.

“The brand is about fashion, value and newness and we’re in the sweet spot of what we think is a growing sector,” he added.