Owner of fashion labels Sandro, Maje sees profit cushioned by online shopping

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A Maje label is pictured on clothes inside a Maje luxury clothing store, operated by SMCP Group, in Paris, France, December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

March 24 (Reuters) - French fashion group SMCP (SMCP.PA), the owner of the Sandro and Maje labels, said on Wednesday its 2020 core profit fell less than feared, cushioned by a rise in online sales and cost-cutting.

Retailers were hit hard as governments forced shops to close during coronavirus-related lockdowns and SMCP's 2020 sales fell by a quarter, only partially offset by recovery in China and accelerating digital sales trends.

"As expected, our full year results were strongly impacted by the pandemic which led to lockdown measures in most countries and a halt in tourism flows," Chief Executive Daniel Lalonde said in a statement.

The company, which also owns mid-priced luxury brands Claudie Pierlot and De Fursac, said its annual earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) fell by almost 40% to 179.6 million euros ($212.70 million) compared to analysts' average forecast of 128.62 million euros in a Refinitiv poll.

SMCP added that earnings showed a sharp improvement in the last six months of 2020 compared with the first half of the year.

With brands including Sandro, Maje and Claudie Pierlot, the Paris-based SMCP offers more affordable alternatives to Prada or Louis Vuitton (LVMH.PA) products, selling dresses in the 250-400 euro ($295-$473) range.

Shares in SMCP have dropped 75% since late 2018 as the company was hit by a global economic slowdown followed by the coronavirus pandemic, but started 2021 with a pick-up of about 15% since the beginning of the year.

The company added it would not provide an outlook for 2021 because of continued uncertainties related to the coronavirus pandemic.

($1 = 0.8444 euros)

Reporting by Kate Entringer and Zuzanna Szymanska in Gdansk; Editing by Kim Coghill and Louise Heavens

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