Fashion retailer Austin Reed Group has swung back into profit and announced the refurbishment of its West Midland Austin Reed stores.

The company - which owns 105 stores under the Austin Reed and CC insignia, as well as operating 153 concessions - posted profit before tax and e xceptional charges of £200,000 in the 52 weeks to January 28 compared to a £1.9 million loss.

Total sales fell seven per cent to £103.2 million, with like-for-like sales down 5.6 per cent.

"We have managed to get our nose above the water and returned the group to profit," said chief executive Nick Hollingworth.

Analysts had forecast an underlying loss of around £400,000 after the company took measures to cut costs and improve stock control.

Mr Hollingworth also announced plans to boost sales at Austin Reed's Birmingham and Stratford branches with a refurbishment planned for later this month.

The modernisation will see Austin Reed's's traditional logo and oak-style interior replaced with white fixtures and fittings and new signage.

"So far we've refurbished around half of our stores and we've been surprised by the speed of payback," Mr Hollingworth said.

The group's beleaguered Country Casuals brand - now re-branded CC - saw like-forlike sales down nine per cent over the 52 weeks to January 28, with sale impacted by a poor reaction to the autumn range.

"We were disappointed with CC's autumn perform-ance and I think figures have been boosted by our spring/summer collection," Mr Hollingworth said.

"We've focused on brighter colours, more detail and coordinated ranges."

Margins at CC increased - up 3.5 percentage points in the 52 weeks to January 28. However, Mr Hollingworth said focus was now on increasing sales.

"We've had two years of very good margin growth and I would now expect that increase to slow considerably over the next year," he said.

"However we are confident that by maintaining a good product offering we can grow sales."

Mr Hollingworth also hinted that new CC stores could be planned for the West Midlands.

"Some of the more affluent conurbations around Birmingham are certainly of interest to us," he said.

"It comes down to finding the right site at the right price."

Updating on current trading, Austin Reed said same-store sales had climbed 11.9 per cent in the ten weeks to April 8 compared with last year's depressed levels ..SUPL: