Luxury interior furnishings group Walker Greenbank reported an increase in half year sales after an upturn in the US interior furnishings industry although sales in western Europe continued to be hampered by economic problems.
The group, which designs and manufactures fabrics, wallpapers and furnishings and whose brands include Sanderson, Morris & Co and its new contemporary brand Harlequin & Scion, said brand sales in the US jumped 21.5% in the half year to July 31 2012 and 18% at constant currency. Brand sales in the UK, its largest market, were up 5.6%.
Sales were up 13% in the Far East and rose 9% in eastern Europe. However sales in the Eurozone declined 11.6%, or 6% in constant currency, as difficult market conditions persisted.
Chairman Terry Stannard said: "We are pleased with our underlying performance in the first half. We enter the key autumn selling period with some excellent products, including those from our recently launched Scion and Sanderson Home offerings and also those from new product categories such as Harlequin trimmings."
Licensing income rose 19% to £0.80m, with strong growth in Japan.
Group adjusted pre-tax profit rose to £2.7m in the six-month period from £2.43m the year before. Unadjusted pre-tax profit fell to £1.94m from £2.03m a year earlier. Sales rose to £38.3m from £37.4m after robust growth in the US, the Far East and Eastern Europe.
Walker Greenback said brand sales in the current half were subdued in August, but grew 2.4% in September compared with the previous year.
"Our manufacturing sites continued to perform well throughout. We remain confident of achieving market expectations for the full year," it said in a company statement.
Shares of Crawshaw carved out healthy gains in early trading after it said like-for-like (LFL) sales continued to improve in the six months to July 31st despite the tough retail climate.
The Yorkshire-based meat processing firm said LFL sales increased 4.0% in the six-month period while overall sales fell to £9.3m from £9.4m in 2011 after the closure of it Doncaster market site and its mobile unit.
"Given the reduction in overall sales, as indicated above, overall costs have fallen. However, the sales related reduction in overheads has been partially offset by our investment in marketing related activities and certain restructuring costs. The benefits of this investment are becoming apparent in the second half," the group explained.
Half-year profit rose to £89,892 from £71,805 previously and gross margin increased to 43.6%.
In reaction to government proposals to add VAT to certain, currently exempt, cooked products, the group said it intends to sell such products 'on the cool' and therefore VAT free.
"We have invested in equipment, additional staff and staff training to prepare for the changes," Crawshaw said.
The initiatives being taken have helped improve LFL sales further and in the eight weeks since the half-year LFL sales were up 7.0%.
Crawshaw conceded that the retail climate remains particularly challenging, and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. However on an encouraging note, the group still saw improvements in average spend of 9.0% over the last year.