SuperGroup’s online sales soar in Europe

Originally published in The Financial Times

Ecommerce sales in Europe overtook UK sales for the first time at SuperGroup as the once-volatile fast fashion retailer reported its eighth consecutive quarterly rise in sales.

Julian Dunkerton, chief executive, said British retailers have an advantage over continental European peers, as consumers have switched to online shopping faster in the UK than elsewhere.

“I think we, as international British companies, have a huge advantage – because of the sophistication of our online businesses in the UK – to capitalise on internationally.”

British shoppers spend about twice as much online as the French, and almost three times more than the Germans, according to a report by Ofcom.

But it is difficult to break into an international market without a bricks-and-mortar presence, according to Mr Dunkerton.

“We have an international presence as we are multi-channel,” said the former market stall trader. “It gives us a natural advantage. You can’t just create something in one country and hope it sells in another.” Only about one in 10 online retail transactions is cross-border, according to a report by Accenture.

Profit before tax for the six months to October 27 was about a quarter lower at £9.9m as the group spent heavily on a new 500,000 sq ft distribution centre in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire.

SuperGroup had a difficult 2011 and 2012, marred by profit warnings, but steady growth since then has won investors round. Shares in the group edged 0.3 per cent lower to £12.50, having more than doubled during the past 12 months.

Elsewhere in the sector, online sales at Moss Bros trebled as the tailor rolled out websites across Scandinavia and Ireland and fleshed out plans to launch a website in Australia.

The formalwear company once doubted whether its customers would buy suits online, “but now we see they very much are”, said Brian Brick, chief executive of the group.

“We were slow to get into e-commerce, but now we’re catching up,” he added.

Moss Bros closed three stores net in the period. Mr Brick was quick to defend these as part of the company’s strategy to get stores with flexible leases. “We certainly expect to see more stores and have plans to open stores across 20 cities and towns,” he said.

Shares in Moss Bros rose 2.1 per cent to close at 71p.

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