N Brown says sales momentum building

LONDON Wed Jan 16, 2013 8:13am GMT

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LONDON (Reuters) - British home-shopping group N Brown (BWNG.L) said it expected to meet 2012-13 forecasts after posting strong growth in sales driven by online investment and revamped product ranges.

The Manchester, northwest England-based group, which targets older and larger shoppers with brands such as Simply Be, Jacamo and Marisota, said on Wednesday its like-for-like sales rose 7.9 percent in the 19 weeks to January 12, also helped by lower prices and investment in customer recruitment.

That compares to a first-half rise of 3.7 percent.

Total sales rose 8.5 percent and the firm said gross margin was in line with internal expectations.

With shoppers fretting over job security and a squeeze on incomes many British retailers are struggling.

Over the last week Marks & Spencer (MKS.L), Britain's biggest clothing retailer, has posted a weak Christmas trading update, while camera specialist Jessops and music, film and games retailer HMV HMV.L have both fallen into administration.

N Brown has generally bucked the gloom, with its shares rising 60 percent over the last year.

Its online sales jumped 17 percent over the 19 weeks and now account for 54 percent of total revenue.

Prior to Wednesday's update analysts were forecasting a consensus pre-tax profit of about 97 million pounds.

N Brown Chief Executive Alan White said the British retail environment was lacklustre.

"I don't think it (the economy) is going to drag us back but I don't think it's going to push us forward, so it's all about self help," he told Reuters.

Shares in N Brown (BWNG.L) were trading down 2 percent at 363.9 pence at 8:13 a.m. British time, valuing the business at about 1.03 billion pounds.

(Reporting by James Davey; editing by Paul Sandle)