Natural beauty products retailer Body Shop has bucked the downbeat mood on the UK High Street by reporting higher profits and strong sales growth.
The Body Shop has defied the slowdown on the High Street
Recent sales at its UK High Street stores jumped 9%, sending its shares surging nearly 14% on Thursday morning.
Body Shop also unveiled a 21% rise in pre-tax profits to £34.5m ($65.6m) for the year to 26 February.
Its statement contrasted with gloomy outlooks which have been issued by other UK retailers in recent weeks.
On Wednesday, B&Q-owner Kingfisher said its first-quarter profits would be hit by poor retail sales. Earlier in the week, leisure group Whitbread warned of tough trading conditions as consumers tighten their purse strings following a series of interest rate rises last year.
"2005 is our third consecutive year of strong growth," Body Shop said.
Over the past three years Body Shop has worked on repositioning itself to the 'masstige' sector of the consumer market.
The term masstige (Mass-market combined with prestige) covers relatively low price retail goods that are sold under the banner of a prestigious brand name.
Strong sales of passion fruit body butter and its Skin Focus skincare range helped boost profits, Body Shop said.
Invent Your Scent, an innovative concept allowing customers to blend their own fragrances also went down well, Body Shop said.
The retailer said operating profits rose 19% over the past year to £36.2m, and net debt was slashed to £4.7m from £9.2m a year earlier.
And despite the gloom elsewhere, it forecast operating profit growth of between 15% and 20% this year.
Body Shop also reiterated its commitment to fair trading through sourcing ingredients though its own Community Trade programme.
Looking ahead, Body Shop plans to give customers easier access to its products through Body Shop At Home and through e-commerce.
The company said it was also close to signing an agreement with a business partner in Russia, with a view to opening its first store there in September.
It is also eyeing up opportunities to open stores in China and other European markets and the Middle East.
The Body Shop, which began in a modest Brighton shop in 1976, now has more than 2,000 stores across four continents.
Analysts welcomed its latest results.
"Body Shop up 9%... in the UK is excellent," said Nick Bubb, retail analyst at Evolution Securities.