The turnover of this multi-national shoe retailing group rose by only 1.5 percent in 2003, reaching €303.8 million, as a 3.3 percent increase in the 4th quarter was insufficient to offset the big drop it suffered in the 3rd one because of the exceptionally hot weather and the poor economy. In local currencies, making abstraction of the devaluation of the British pound, sales increased by 8.2 percent in the latest quarter and by 6.4 percent for the full year.

Profit figures are not yet available but the management says the operating result (Ebit) for the year will be at the lower end of the previously budgeted €13-15 million range. The outlook for 2004 is not very optimistic: Little sales growth is expected on a same-store basis in the countries where the Belgian group is trading and the weak pound, which is likely to continue its descent, will offset the planned addition of 10 new stores in the UK. Thus, Brantano’s sales are now expected to increase to only €305-310 million in 2004.

In 2003, Brantano’s store network in the UK delivered the strongest performance after Denmark, which is still a new market for the chain. UK sales increased by 20.4 percent in the local currency and by 9.3 percent in euros, representing 47.7 percent of the group’s total sales. On a same-store basis, UK sales rose by 1.8 percent throughout the year and by 6.5 percent in the 4th quarter.

The expansion of Brantano’s Danish store network led to a 10.3 percent increase in that country to €9.0 million. On a same-store basis sales were up by 3.8 percent for the year and by 11.7 percent for the 4th quarter.

In Belgium and Luxembourg, which now represent 43.4 percent of sales, sales increased by 1.1 percent in 2003. On a same-store basis they fell by 1.0 percent, but with a 1.9 percent increase in the 4th quarter. As end-of-season sales can only start in January in Belgium, Brantano was unable to stimulate the market with sales promotions in December, as it did in the UK and Denmark.

The Dutch market remains tough for Brantano. Sales plunged by 36.4 percent, due in part to the closure of 11 shops. Aggressive closeout sales led to 26.3 percent decline on a same-store basis, but the rate of decline eased down to 15.0 percent in the latest quarter.