East Anglia: Improving sales trend for department store chain Beales

DEPARTMENT stores chain Beales today reported an improving sales trend despite the impact of poor weather and the distractions of Britain's summer of sport.

Beales, which more than doubled its network of outlets with the �7.5million acquisition of 19 Westgate stores from the Anglia Regional Co-op in May last year, said like-for-like sales were 5% lower in the 20 weeks to September 15, and 6% down for the 46 weeks to the same date.

Total group sales for the 20 week period were 2% higher and those for the year to date 26% ahead, with the increase driven by the Westgate acquisition which included stores in Beccles, Diss, King's Lynn, Lowestoft, Saffron Walden and Wisbech.

Beales, which made a number of staff redundant earlier this year, said in a trading update: 'The sales trend has continued to show some improvement as the second half of the financial year has progressed, despite the third quarter being severely restricted by a number of factors including the inclement weather, major sporting fixtures and the continuing adverse macro-economic environment in the UK.

'Investment has been made in gross margin during the last 20 weeks to ensure stock sell through rather than face a future aged stock issue. Some of the impact of both the sales performance and the margin investment has been mitigated by fiscal responsibility measures to reduce costs.'

Chief executive Tony Brown added: 'The fourth quarter continues to see a sales trend improvement, despite the variable and unseasonable weather patterns, which bodes well for the critical pre-Christmas quarter.

'The current economic climate remains tough but we are taking the necessary actions to support continued improvements in sales and costs. We are particularly pleased with the response to our loyalty programme launched in May, which now has over 130,000 members.'

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Beales has a total of 32 stores across the country, operating under fascias including Beales, Broadbents & Boothroyds, Whitakers, Denners and Robbs. The former Westgate stores in East Anglia have been rebranded under the Beales identity.