Whistles significantly reduces losses under The Foschini Group


Premium women’s fashion retailer Whistles has revealed significantly reduced losses under South African owner The Foschini Group.

Accounts filed at Companies House show that in the 62-week period from 31 January 2016 to 1 April 2017, the business achieved sales up 18% at £68.9m (compared to the previous 52-week performance of £58.5m). Sales for the 12-month period to 31 March 2017 reached £59m, representing a 1.5% growth on the unaudited results for the 52-week period from 5 April 2015 to 5 April 2016, despite a number of store closures.

Gross margin for the period was nudged up to 61% from 60.7% resulting in a gross profit for the 14-month period of £42.1m. EBITDA grew from a loss of £2.9m in 2016 to a profit of £1.7m, which the company said was down to strong sales and margin during the period as well as a streamlining of the business by reducing loss-making outlets, direct costs and overheads. After tax, however, the business posted a loss of £3.77m for the 62-week period, compared to £6.15m in 2016.

Online sales had proved to be particularly strong with sales up 35.1% when comparing the 12-month period to 1 April 2017 to the unaudited figures for the prior 12 months. Stores and concessions fell back while wholesale was up 12.8% driven by four main wholesale partners in the UK and Europe.

The Foschini Group, which also owns Phase Eight and Hobbs, acquired Whistles in March 2016 from Icelandic investment group Mundur. The business had previously been owned by Icelandic group Baugur which controlled a UK retail empire but which collapsed in 2009. Whistles was refinanced and became an independent company under former Topshop boss Jane Shepherdson. Shepherdson initially retained her 20% stake after The Foschini Group buy-out but six months later in September 2016 she announced she was stepping down.

Whistles currently operates 44 standalone UK stores and three international stores, two in Hong Kong and one in Switzerland. It also trades in 90 concessions in department stores such as Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and Harrods in the UK, along with Bloomingdales, El Corte Ingles and Brown Thomas internationally. As well as its own website it also trades via online partners, such as ASOS.com, Zalando and Next.

The bulk of Whistles’ turnover comes from its premium womenswear offer but menswear, launched in 2014, is available in select outlet.