Clothing retailer Austin Reed said yesterday it continued to make progress with its recovery, despite a slowdown in recent strong sales growth.
The group, which returned to the black earlier this year after a turnaround at its former Country Casuals division, said like-for-like sales increased 9.3 per cent over the first 19 weeks of its financial year.
Like-for-like sales rose by 10.1 per cent at CC - formerly known as Country Casuals - while Austin Reed grew its comparable sales figure by 8.3 per cent. However, the performance represents a slowing of the recent trend as both chains were ahead by more than ten per cent in the ten weeks to April 8, with CC more than 12 per cent higher.
Chairman John Robins told shareholders attending the company's annual meeting: "We are pleased with the performance to date and believe we are well placed to build on the progress already made."
Much of the recent improvement at Country Casuals came after the chain aimed at the 40-plus age range rebranded CC and its products made more contemporary.
Design and buying teams were changed and margins strengthened as the group looked to avoid excessive discounting and overhauled its supply chain.
While CC's like-for-like sales remained well ahead of a year earlier, total sales for the division were off 2.8 per cent because of store closures in 2005.
At the Austin Reed division, the group's flagship Regent Street store in London achieved growth of 14.1 per cent to leave total sales ahead by 10.4 per cent.
In April, the Austin Reed brand operated from 61 stores and 33 concessions in the UK, while CC has 63 sites and 124 concessions.
The group posted profits of £228,000 in the year to January 28 - against losses of £1.9 million previously.
* Retailer Ted Baker said trading at the start of its new financial year had been in line with expectations, despite further challenging market conditions.