The present calendar year has started well for the Swedish retail chain. Total sales in January were 62 million Swedish kroner (€7.0m-$9.8m) – an increase by 9 percent on a same- store basis. The number of stores in January was 127 compared with 145 in January 2010. All chains of stores within Venue Retail Group increased their sales during this month compared with last year.

The interim financial report for the first quarter ended last Nov. 30 shows a strengthened market position and hugely improved results for the group. Net sales grew to SEK 219.2 million (€24.9m-$34.5m) from SEK 211.0 million in the same period a year ago although the number of stores was down to 131 compared with 150 the year before.

On a comparable store basis, the total sales for Venue Retail Group increased by 15 percent – better than the market. In terms of comparable units, the company's Rizzo chain of upmarket shoe shops showed the strongest sales curve in the group – an increase of 26 percent on a same-store basis compared with the year before.

Rizzo accounted for 33 percent of the total sales of the group during the quarter, compared with 29 percent the year before. For the rolling 12 months from December 2009 to November 2010, Rizzo's sales were SEK 229.2 million (€26.1m-$36.1m). In the fiscal year from September 2009 to August 2010, Rizzo had suffered a drop of 9.8 percent in its sales, down to SEK 216.8 million (€24.6m-$34.1m).

While it also trades in other Nordic countries, in Sweden alone, Venue Retail Group increased its total sales of shoes and accessories by 21 percent in comparable units in September, October and November 2010, in line with the market, which grew by an estimated 22 percent at current prices. However, Rizzo's sales increased by 27 percent during the period.

The Swedish market accounted for 57 percent of the group's total sales, compared with 51 percent the previous year. Norwegian sales accounted for 40 percent, compared with 45 percent last year. Finland showed a decrease to 3 percent compared with 4 percent the year before. In terms of operating results, Sweden showed the strongest development – but operating results were positive in all three countries.

The gross margin of Venue Retail Group rose to 61.7 percent from 59.1 percent in the quarter, mainly due to an increase in full-price sales and good collections. The operating margin reached 10.1 percent compared with 0.9 percent the previous year. The company reached a net profit of SEK 17.7 million (€2.0m-$2.8m) versus SEK 0.4 million the previous year.

At the company's annual general meeting on Jan. 13, four members were re-elected to the board of directors: Ulf Eklöf, Tommy Jacobson, Christel Kinning and Mats Persson. The board predicted a strengthened profitability for the 2010-11 financial year, but warned about the upcoming challenges from monitoring production capacities and deal with increasing manufacturing costs in China.