British home shopping company N Brown said it could enter the potentially lucrative United States market next year as it posted record first-half results and a positive outlook, sending its shares higher.
We're quite well advanced on our planning in the U.S. We will probably be in a position where we could launch in autumn/winter 2010 if we wanted, chief executive Alan White told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.
N Brown, whose catalogues include Simply Be, Oxendales, Marisota and Jacamo, targets older and larger customers.
The total (annual) market for the outsize customer (in the United States) is something of the order of $35 billion ... So if you can get even a small share of a big market it's worth having, said White.
The possible move into the United States follows the success of a trial in Germany, the first foray overseas by the Manchester, northwest England-based group.
British retailers have struggled as shoppers cut spending in the downturn. But N Brown has fared better than most, helped by its position as a specialist in larger-sized clothes which it sells to a customer base with an average age of 57 and more stable incomes.
Its shares, which have increased by a quarter in value over the past year, were up 2.1 percent at 259.6 pence at 0905 GMT, valuing the business at 724 million pounds ($1.16 billion).
We think the PE (price/earnings) discount to the sector -- around 23 percent for calendar 2010 estimates -- is unwarranted for a company that can grow the top and bottom lines in both good and less good economic times, Investec Securities analyst David Jeary said in a note.
N Brown's underlying pretax profit rose 13 percent to 41.8 million pounds in the 26 weeks to Aug. 29. That record outcome compared with forecasts for 38.1-40.5 million pounds, according to a company poll.
Revenue increased 4.9 percent to 339 million pounds, and was up 1 percent in the six weeks to Oct. 10. Gross margin in the first-half slipped 1.6 percentage points to 53.1 percent. The interim dividend was 4.38 pence, up 58 percent.
White said the company was on track to deliver on its expectations for the year to end-February. That is a bit of a euphemism with being happy with the (analysts') consensus that is out there, he said.
Prior to Wednesday's statement, analysts were forecasting a pretax profit of about 88 million pounds, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
White said a national postal strike would have some impact on business but the company would cope.
We don't need the Royal Mail to get the orders in or to deliver the parcels but we do use them to deliver our marketing material, the catalogues, leaflets and statements, he said. (Editing by Mark Potter and Dan Lalor) ($1 = 0.6259 pound)