The group’s strategy has seen the company acquire multiple ailing businesses out of administration though the group’s eponymous department store brand, House of Fraser, could be on course to additional properties as rent negotiations are underway amidst the continuing pandemic.
It is, according to the company, a matter of how many stores will be forced to close, depending upon the outcome of negotiations.
Some 10 of 59 House of Fraser stores have been closed since the business was acquired in 2018 and today’s interim results statement it cautioned that further closures are to be anticipated over the coming period.
This morning’s results statement, meanwhile, highlighted a greater priority on online sales channels with the retail group set to invest £100mln via its ‘digital elevation strategy’.
The FTSE 250 sports retailer and House of Fraser owner will focus the new investment on its more upmarket Flannels chain and “an enhanced customer experience”, as well as supporting growth across its online channels.
In London, Frasers shares rose by around 13% to trade at 346.6p each.
Delayed results show 7% revenue growth
Results for the 52-week period to April 26, 2020, which were delayed for the second year in a row, showed group revenue increased by 7% to just under £4bn. On an organic basis, which excludes acquisitions and currency swings, sales were down 12.6%, with like-for-like sales in core UK sports retail falling 6.6%, mostly caused by shops being temporarily shuttered during the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown.
The growth came mostly from the newer focus on ‘premium lifestyle’, which increased 34.9% as new Flannels stores opened and acquisitions were made of Jack Wills and Sofa.com, with a new 10% investment in Hugo Boss made post-period-end.
Frasers’ reported a 20% fall in profit before tax to £143.5mln, which under the new IFRS 16 accounting rules excluded an £84.9mln gain on the sale and leaseback of its infamous Shirebrook distribution centre. Underlying profits (EBITDA) rose 5% to £302.1mln.
Net debt decreased to £366mln from £378.5mln, with underlying free cash flow remaining solid at £263.1mln.
“With digital transformation now at the forefront, the successful reopening of our stores after the Covid-19 lockdown and continuing strong web performance, we are confident in achieving between a 10% and 30% improvement in underlying EBITDA during FY21,” the company said in the results statement.
The shares surged 17% on Thursday morning to 357.65p, now only 22% lower since the start of the year having been down 58% in early April.