Matalan stops the rot


Clothing retailer Matalan has cut back its losses in the last 12 months of trading, incurring negative profit growth of just 0.5 per cent in the nine weeks prior to July 1st.

The losses are a substantial improvement on those sustained during the nine weeks before that, with total profits down by 1.5 per cent in 18 weeks.

Despite emphasising that "the trading environment across the sector remains tough", Matalan said it had achieved the improved results thanks to a combination of better marketing and an improved range of products.

"While we are encouraged by improvements being made across the business, we continue to trade in a difficult marketplace and are planning accordingly," John King, Matalan's chief executive, commented.

Matalan's budget-priced line of clothing currently holds three per cent of the market share.

Despite its improved performance, shareholders in the company will remain concerned by infighting in the executive board. Harris Associates, which owns a seven per cent stake in the firm, chose to vote against the re-appointment of John Hargreaves as executive chairman in protest against his plans to make an offer for the firm.

Although today's Nationwide consumer confidence index gives Britain's struggling retail sector rather gloomy prospects, high street monitors for May showed that World Cup spending had delivered a sizeable boost to sales.

The British Retail Consortium's retail sales index for May showed that year-on-year sales had increased by 3.6 per cent, although its shop price index revealed that much of these sales had been driven by shopkeepers maintaining low prices in an effort to drive sales.

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