UPDATE 1-N Brown says sales momentum building
LONDON Jan 16 (Reuters) - British home-shopping group N Brown said it expected to meet 2012-13 forecasts after posting strong growth in sales driven by online investment and revamped product ranges.
The Manchester, northwest England-based group, which targets older and larger shoppers with brands such as Simply Be, Jacamo and Marisota, said on Wednesday its like-for-like sales rose 7.9 percent in the 19 weeks to Jan. 12, also helped by lower prices and investment in customer recruitment.
That compares to a first-half rise of 3.7 percent.
Total sales rose 8.5 percent and the firm said gross margin was in line with internal expectations.
With shoppers fretting over job security and a squeeze on incomes many British retailers are struggling.
Over the last week Marks & Spencer, Britain's biggest clothing retailer, has posted a weak Christmas trading update, while camera specialist Jessops and music, film and games retailer HMV have both fallen into administration.
N Brown has generally bucked the gloom, with its shares rising 60 percent over the last year.
Its online sales jumped 17 percent over the 19 weeks and now account for 54 percent of total revenue.
Prior to Wednesday's update analysts were forecasting a consensus pretax profit of about 97 million pounds ($156 million).
N Brown Chief Executive Alan White said the British retail environment was lacklustre.
"I don't think it (the economy) is going to drag us back but I don't think it's going to push us forward, so it's all about self help," he told Reuters.
Shares in N Brown were trading down 2 percent at 363.9 pence at 0813 GMT, valuing the business at about 1.03 billion pounds ($1.66 billion).
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