Own brands fuel House of Fraser surge

DEPARTMENT store group House of Fraser yesterday reported a 22 per cent rise in half-year earnings thanks to its own-brand ranges.

The company said earnings reached £13m after a 5.5 per cent rise in sales to £480.6m.

House of Fraser, the third-biggest department store chain in the UK, said its online sales were also forging ahead.

The performance in the six months to 31 July was boosted by a 62 per cent rise in sales of the group’s house brand and a 150 per cent increase in online sales.

Sales at stores open at least a year rose by 8.4 per cent, and were up 10 per cent in the first seven weeks of the second half.

Chief executive John King is adding more own-brand products, including the revived 1960s “Biba” womenswear label. The idea is to offer cutting edge fashion at afordable prices.

Own-brand items account for 11 per cent of total sales and the company aims to lift that percentage to as much as 40 per cent.

King said: “We clearly are very encouraged by the strong demand for our House Brands from our customers, and particularly pleased with the recent launch of Biba.”

Other retailers, such as Debenhams, have also put more emphasis on in-house ranges rather than concessions, where margins may be lower.

More products will be available online, and this month it will introduce a feature that gives customers the option to buy online and collect in any of its 61 stores – which it is also refurbishing, while working on plans to open its first outlet in the Middle East under a partnership with Retail Arabia International.

The first is due to open in Abu Dhabi in 2012.

The group was part of an extensive portfolio of British businesses backed by Baugur before it collapsed, with Baugur’s 33 per cent stake reverting to fellow Icelandic bank Landsbanki.