The owner of labels including Whistles, Hobbs and Phase Eight, has filed its annual accounts up to the end of March and profits improved at the first two labels although store closures dented Phase Eight’s figures.
The overall picture is one of recovery from the pandemic even though Phase Eight remains a work in progress. As well as generally higher sales, TFG said better margins led to improved profits as the parent company pursued a minimal markdowns strategy.
Turnover at the wider business rose to £337.7 million this time from £310 million a year ago, and adjusted EBITDA was up to £38.9 million from £36.8 million. Operating profit rose to £28.1 million, a significant improvement on the £19.9 million of 12 months earlier. And the parent company swung to a £3.5 million net profit after a £0.1 million loss in the previous year.
The gross margin rose to 66.7% from 64.8%, driven by a higher full-price mix, fewer days on promotion and a focus on “protecting stock allocations” for its “best” partners.
It said that across the business, it benefited from a combination of positive like-for-like sales figures and the opening of new stores, although it also closed some stores at all the chains as it continued to tweak its estate and target locations that would be better quality and more profitable. The total number of outlets, which includes concessions, across TFG London in the UK and internationally at the end of the financial year was 589, down sharply from 684 in the previous year.
As for its individual chains, Whistles, the on-trend premium fashion retailer, reported turnover rising to £73.7 million from £71 million and adjusted EBITDA up at £8 million from £7 million. Operating profit reached £6.4 million, up from £4.9 million, and net profit was £5.6 million, a strong improvement on the £3.3 million of the previous 12 months.
The headline gross margin rose to 65.5% from 63.2% as it increased the full-price mix.
In the UK, the company opened one new store and three concessions, although it also closed three stores and six concessions during the period. Internationally, it launched four concessions and closed one. This left it with a total number of outlets in the UK at the end of the year at 123, down from 128.
Meanwhile, Hobbs, the mid-market womenswear retailer that targets a slightly older customer and offers more tailoring, smart daywear and occasionwear, reported turnover up to £129.3 million from £113.5 million.
Adjusted EBITDA rose to £18.6 million from £17.4 million and operating profit was £11.9 million, up from £7.8 million a year before. Net profit reached £10 million, up from £7.2 million.
Importantly, the headline gross margin for the year rose to 64.7% from 61.9%, as and at its portfolio-mate this was due to the company focusing on fewer markdowns than before.
Unlike Whistles and Hobbs, Phase Eight turnover declined to £96.3 million from £97.1 million and adjusted EBITDA dropped to £3.4 million from £5 million. It made an operating loss of £2.1 million, down from a profit of £4.9 million in the prior year. And net profit was only £3.7 million, down from £6.7 million.
The mid-market womenswear label was affected by net store closures as it continued to optimise its portfolio with only three openings but 12 closures. The company said it “managed the estate to benefit from improved lease terms”. It also closed 30 concessions with only one opening, giving it a net total of 107, down from 136.
The headline gross margin was down at 58.8% from 59.6% and the stock provision at the year end increased due to a higher level of stock than anticipated. But the underlying selling margin was still up year-on-year as the full-price strategy had an impact.
It will be interesting to see how the results for the following year pan out, and whether the actions the company has taken recently will lead to a better financial performance here.
UPBEAT PARENT COMPANY
Overall, TFG said that despite the challenging economic backdrop in the UK, it successfully achieved stronger financial results for its business as it continued a solid post-Covid recovery.
The “return to a more normalised consumer demand pattern continues to be unpredictable” however, and “tough economic conditions have impacted both consumer sentiment and purchasing habits”.
While will have affected the retailer to certain extent, the year still saw a resurgence of in-store shopping and highlighted the importance of its cross-channel offering.
Its said its store footfall continues to be on an upward trend and it’s also building its digital capability.
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