Macintosh Retail Group increased its retail sales of footwear in the first half of the year thanks to the acquisition in April of the British retailer Jones Bootmaker and the launch, in the same month, of the Steve Madden brand in the Benelux countries. On the other hand, the Dutch-based group is divesting other operations: it signed yesterday a deal to transfer its shares in a telecom retail firm, BelCompany, to Vodafone for €90 million, and it recently indicated its intention to sell Halfords, a chain of shops for bicycles and automotive and bike components.

Macintosh's fashion division – which includes among others the shoe retailer Brantano, the retail holding company Hoogenbosch and Scapino – boosted its sales by 4.8 percent to 288.0 million in the first half of this year. Without the contribution of Jones Bootmaker and Steve Madden, footwear sales would have been slightly down.

Macintosh opened its first four Steve Madden stores in April. Jones Bootmaker was acquired on April 17 and contributed £15.4 million (€17.5m-$25.1m) to Macintosh's turnover and £0.1 million (€114,000-$163,300) to its net profit. If the consolidation had started on Jan. 1, the British retailer would have contributed £33.6 million to group revenues.

At the end of June, the fashion division had 851 stores against 743 a year earlier, bolstering the floor space to 402,000 square meters from 386,000. Comparable store sales were down by about 2.0 percent. Among the main footwear chains, Brantano had 132 stores in Belgium and Luxembourg and 144 in the U.K.; Scapino had 207 stores in the Netherlands and 29 in Belgium and Luxembourg; Dolcis had 99 locations in the Netherlands; Jones Bootmaker had 86 in the U.K.; and Manfield had 65 in the Netherlands.

With 448 shoe shops in the Netherlands, the group claims a 12 percent market share in the country. In Belgium and Luxembourg it has 166 shops and a 10 percent market share, and in the U.K. 237 stores and a 4 percent market share.

The group noted that trading was volatile during the first half, with the trend changing on a monthly basis. Overall, customers were trading up, benefiting higher-positioned shoe chains. The turnover at Hoogenbosch rose substantially and Jones Bootmaker achieved higher sales. Meanwhile, revenues at Brantano stores in the Benelux region were unchanged and turnover declined at Scapino and Brantano in the U.K., which are both more economical.

The operating profit of the fashion unit slipped to 5.9 million in the first half from 8.7 million a year earlier, while the group's operating profit was halved to 3.6 million. Sales at Macintosh's living division, which includes home decoration stores, dropped by 3.9 percent to €116.8 million.

Overall, group revenues rose by 2.1 percent to 404.8 million excluding the automotive & telecom division, which is being sold. Net profit from the remaining fashion and living divisions dropped to 0.3 million from 3.3 million.

Adding the operations being divested, the total net profit for the period came down to €0.8 million, down from €6.9 million. Net debt increased by €75.4 million during the first half to €192.2 million.

The change in the company's structure increases the importance of the second half of the year, the key selling period for shoe retailing. Given the difficult market conditions, the group declined to make forecasts regarding turnover and operating profits in the second half of the year. It indicated that it expects to book a €4.4 million charge related to its pension scheme.