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Friday, August 21, 1998 Published at 13:25 GMT 14:25 UK


Business: The Company File

What Everyone Wants - profits

Brown and Jackson is back in the black

The company which owns the budget chains Poundstretcher, What Everyone Wants and Your More Store has returned to the black after years of disappointing performances.

Leeds-based Brown and Jackson has announced a pre-tax profit of 7.5m, a dramatic turnaround from a year ago when it plunged into the red, clocking up a pre-tax loss of 2.7m.

Chairman Christo Wiese said: "By any standard this is a remarkable recovery.

"I am delighted by these results. They show a dramatic turnaround in the position of the group.


[ image: Targeting customers with less money to spend is reaping rewards]
Targeting customers with less money to spend is reaping rewards
"Major improvements in efficiency have been achieved, costs have been reduced and gross margins have significantly increased."

What Everyone Wants (WEW) and Your More Store were bought separately by Brown & Jackson last autumn.

During their first nine months in the group they made an operating profit before exceptionals of 3m.

The improvement at WEW follows a period of turbulence stretching back several years.

WEW started life in Glasgow in the 1970s and blossomed into a national chain under the guidance of entrepreneurial couple Gerald and Vera Weisfeld who sold the business for 50m in 1990.

But in the early 1990s it was dogged by boardroom trouble and employed a succession of chairmen.

Its share price collapsed from 84.5p in 1993 to just 4.5p when Brown & Jackson made its takeover offer.

All change again

Meanwhile the previous management laid plans to bring the chain upmarket, changing the name of some branches to the more refined sounding The Store.

But Brown & Jackson chief executive Johan Visser said this idea had been ill-advised.

He said the name change has been reversed - all the branches of The Store should now be using their original name again.

He added: "When we took it (WEW) over, it was in a pretty dismal state with suppliers not wanting to deliver.

"Up until December we had a bit of a battle but we turned it around."

Mr Visser said the old management had planned to shut about a dozen stores, but so far Brown & Jackson had only closed one - and he was determined to do everything he could to prevent more from stopping trading.

He said: "My stores are like my children and I do not want to close a store.

"Our focus on What Everyone Wants is on the customer with a smaller discretionary spend. What Everyone Wants will stay a discounter."

Following the good results and improved performance of all three chains, the group plans to accelerate its expansion programme.

No dividend

But it said it would not be paying a dividend to shareholders because of the need to continue accumulating resources.

Of a block of new stores bought by the group recently, 14 will become Poundstretchers and five will be transformed into branches of What Everyone Wants.

Brand new branches of all three chains are also expected.

Poundstretcher made "significant progress" following a strategic review and restructuring.

It improved its operating profit before exceptionals from 0.5m to 9.9m.

Brown & Jackson also revealed it had conditionally agreed to buy property holding company B&J Props from Retail Holdings, which is also the retailing group's principal shareholder, for more than 2.3m.

B&J's portfolio is currently made up of 14 properties.





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