UPDATE 1-SuperGroup on track to meet forecasts as sales rise
LONDON Feb 7 (Reuters) - SuperGroup, the British company behind the Superdry fashion brand, said it was on course to meet year forecasts after posting a 12.3 percent rise in third-quarter sales, continuing its recovery after a series of setbacks last year.
Shares in the group, whose fans include royal favourite Pippa Middleton, Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas and singer Ed Sheeran, rose 8 percent on Thursday after it said total sales of its trademark jackets, T-shirts and hooded tops were 115.1 million pounds ($180.2 million) in the three months to Jan. 27.
The outcome reflected broader product ranges as well as systems and operational improvements.
Sales had risen 16.2 percent in the first half.
SuperGroup forecast a year to April 28 2013 gross margin 50-75 basis points higher than the previous year, reflecting lower cotton prices and a more favourable channel mix in the quarter.
Prior to Thursday's update, analysts were forecasting a full-year pretax profit of 40-52 million pounds, with a consensus of 49.3 million pounds.
Shares in SuperGroup have risen 44 percent over the last six months on the back of three reassuring statements, and were up 50 pence at 681 pence at 0834 GMT, valuing the business at about 548 million pounds.
However, the stock is still well down on its high of 1,899 pence set in early 2011, following three profit warnings and a litany of management mistakes, including the botched implementation of a warehouse IT system and arithmetical accounting errors.
With Britain facing a possible triple-dip recession many retailers have been finding the going tough as consumers fret over job security and a squeeze on incomes. SuperGroup has performed better than most.
Retail sales in the third quarter rose 14.4 percent to 89.8 million pounds, with sales at stores open a year up 10.6 percent.
Wholesale sales were 25.3 million pounds, up 5.4 percent, while the spring/summer order book is up 20 percent.
"Although trading conditions remain volatile and unpredictable, the year to date results, and the early indications of the response to the new season range, have provided us with ever increasing confidence for the future." said Chief Executive Julian Dunkerton. ($1 = 0.6389 British pounds) (Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Paul Sandle)