Is French Connection out of the woods yet? Maybe, just maybe. The group, which has struggled for some time, has just issued a trading update and the 16 weeks to November 21 looked pretty healthy (well, compared to previous periods it did).
OK, it’s not quite on a Primark-style growth curve but sales of the French Connection AW15 collection continued to be strong during the period after a promising start to the season. Comp sales for UK/Europe retail rose 0.2%. That may not sound brilliant but a year ago those same comps dropped 6.1% and while the company may not have made up for that fall just yet, it’s on its way. Importantly too, full-price comps were up 6% and the gross margin rose 1.5% as the full-price sales mix increased.
Licensing went from strength-to-strength too. The company recently extended its successful furniture license with DFS for another five years and it’s in on-going talks covering a number of other product categories.
On the retail front, the company is continuing to shed unprofitable stores and will close a further seven in the second half. That’ll mean a change after many years at Oxford Circus – French Connection is leaving its extra-large site at the top of Regent Street at the end of March and will gain £2.4m in the process, as well as stemming losses from the store.