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December 28, 2012 2:50 pm
Buoyant sales of cashmere jumpers and bed linen have helped boost pre-Christmas sales at The White Company by more than a tenth ahead of the company’s planned international expansion next year.
The fashion and homeware company, wholly-owned by founder Chrissie Rucker, reported a 13 per cent year-on-year rise in sales for the eight weeks to December 22 helped by store openings in Winchester and Chichester.
Will Kernan, chief executive, said clothing was becoming an increasingly important part of the company’s offer.
“We’ve been supported by cotton price movements and benefited from a reduction in discounting this year,” he said.
“We’re expanding our cashmere collection and making improvements in knitwear and sweaters . . . clothing is an important part of our future growth plans.”
The company also announced that Phil Clarke, previously finance director at racy lingerie chain Ann Summers, had been made finance director in November.
It follows the appointment of Steve Morris, previously at Arcadia-owned Topshop, as retail director in July and Mr Kernan, formerly chief operating officer at the high street fashion retailer New Look, in February.
The White Company, which has 43 stores, has nearly doubled sales since 2006 as customers snapped up its signature soft furnishings in muted colours.
Earlier this month 44-year old Ms Rucker, a former fashion journalist who began the company in 1994 from a boyfriend’s spare bedroom, said she wanted to expand the company’s international presence in 2013.
“Our plans for international development will start to take place in 2013,” said Mr Kernan. “It will involve both online and catalogue development and stores based development.”
The White Company reported a 14 per cent rise in sales for the 53 weeks to the end of March to £116m, aided by six new store openings, while operating profits more than doubled to £4.5m from £2.2m the year before.
While Mr Kernan predicted “good growth” for the 2013 financial year he remained cautious on consumer spending.
“Customers don’t have more money in their pockets,” he said. “I don’t see a shining light at end of the tunnel so we plan for cautious market growth.”
While record numbers of shoppers poured into many UK stores and malls on Boxing Day retailers are bracing for another difficult year.
Faced with rising costs and cash-strapped consumers many are renewing calls on the government to freeze business rates to stem the tide of closures on Britain’s high streets, where vacancy rates are running at 11 per cent.
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