Briscoe fattens margins

Briscoe Group managed to fatten its gross margin and boost sales in the third quarter, despite the highly competitive retail environment. 

The homeware and sporting goods retailer reported sales of $132.8 million in the 13 weeks ended Oct. 28, up 2.6 percent from $129.4 million a year earlier. On a same-store basis, sales were 1.4 percent higher. Briscoe's homeware stores accounted for most of the increase, up 3.3 percent to $84 million, with its Rebel Sports sales increasing 1.5 percent to $48.1 million. 

"The group has delivered satisfactory sales growth during this third quarter as well as increasing gross profit margin percentage in a highly competitive retail market," managing director Rod Duke said. "We certainly do not underestimate the obvious effects we’re seeing on the market from higher fuel prices and subdued consumer confidence." 

Briscoe has continued to shrug off headwinds facing the retail sector, reporting a first-half profit of $29.3 million in September and hiking its interim dividend for an 11th straight year. The retailer typically burns through cash in the first half, stocking up inventory for the end of year sales and paying a bigger final dividend. 

Duke said he was confident heading into the final quarter, which spans the all-important Christmas and New Year period. 

Sales in the year-to-date rose 3.8 percent to $426 million. Of that, homeware sales were up 4.2 percent and sporting goods rose 3.1 percent. 

The shares rose 0.3 percent to $3.35. Interests associated with Duke own about 78 percent of the company. Last week, they bought 7,000 shares on market at $3.25 apiece. 

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