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Monday, March 29, 1999 Published at 12:42 GMT

Business: The Company File

Ads make French Connection

Sponsorship of Lennox Lewis caused sales to soar

Fashion retailer French Connection has announced a 27% jump in profits on the back of its controversial "FCUK" advertising campaign.

The company, which owns the Nicole Farhi brand, said pre-tax profits for the year to January rose to £10.4m ($16.3m) from £8.2m a year ago, well up on market expectations.

Sales grew 25.2% to £117.3m, assisted by the opening of 10 new stores. Like-for-like sales, excluding the effects of the new store space, were 11% higher.

The company said its decision two years ago to abbreviate its full name, French Connection UK, to FCUK has had an impact on customers.

Its recent Christmas advertising campaign, FCUK Christmas - Take Me Away, further "created attention and provoked discussion", the company said.

'Great optimism'

Chief executive Stephen Marks, said: "At the core of our recent success have been the advertising campaigns for both French Connection and Nicole Farhi. Overall we enter the new year with great optimism."

He added that sponsorship of boxer Lennox Lewis in his recent world heavyweight bout with Evander Holyfield, which saw Lewis wear the FCUK logo on his shorts, had seen its sales of similarly branded T-shirts soar.

In Britain the company says its businesses are "performing well in what continues to be very difficult market conditions", Mr Marks said, while the US retail business "is well ahead of last year at this stage."

The group has 88 stores in the UK and US and aims to have 109 open by January next year. New shops have been opened in London, across the UK and in Washington. Four outlets are set to open in New York.

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