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Confident N Brown boss downplays challenges ahead

N Brown Group’s digital transformation will help to see it through tough trading conditions in the months ahead, chief executive Angela Spindler has said.

Speaking to Drapers after N Brown revealed group revenue was up 4.1% in the 18 weeks to 31 December, Spindler said she was “pretty confident” about its ability to counter rising costs resulting from the weakness of sterling.

“FX [foreign exchange rates] is a challenge, but we continue to do the best we can and look at maximising efficiencies,” she said. ”We’ve hedged in line with what we’ve anticipated.” She reiterated that N Brown has no intention of increasing its prices, unless the economics “change dramatically”. 

Asked if she was concerned about falling consumer confidence, she said: “We’re not immune to the industry dynamics, but we’re growing our share in womenswear – not only because we’re improving the ranges, but also because we’re becoming more digital – and that is neutralising some of the consumer headwinds.”

N Brown is in the early stages of replatforming its websites onto Hybrid, which will allow it to offer a more personalised experience. During the 18 weeks to 31 December, 70% of sales were made online.

The new platform was tested on N Brown’s relatively new US site and is “working well”, Spindler said. The technology will be landed on one of its smaller UK brands, Fashion World, in the third quarter of 2017, before it is rolled out to the “power brands” – JD Williams, Simply Be and Jacamo.

Spindler also pointed to the fact that mobile now accounts for 72% of traffic. “That’s not different to other pureplays, but a big cohort of our customers are over-50. They are transacting happily and increasingly on mobile.”

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