Jack Wills back in profit as full-price focus pays off

Preppy fashion chain Jack Wills has returned to profitability two years after Peter Williams returned to head the struggling firm.

Jack Wills

The company swung to an operating profit of £730,000 in the year to January after a massive loss of £13.8 million a year earlier.

The business was founded by Williams and Rob Shaw 18 years ago and has come back with a vengeance because it reined-in excessive discounts, expanded further abroad in markets such as Germany and focused on an omnichannel model. Since the end of its financial year, it has also launched into new areas such as activewear, as well as opening new stores in prime locations like Gatwick Airport.

That firm’s dramatic return to profit came despite its sales rising only 4% to £142.4 million but it was clearly the move away from discounting that mattered as its margins got a giant full-price sales boost.

Jack Wills said that its strongest items included a women’s trench coat and a men’s quilted bomber jacket last year and seemed to be upbeat about the current year despite complaints of a tough trading environment form many retailers.

Williams said that improved profits momentum is continuing this year and it looks like the good times really could continue rolling with the CEO also saying the firm is working on a number of “exciting initiatives” and will open 10 more stores this year.

It’s all good news for a company that had seen a fairly uninterrupted rise over a number of years with analysts once saying it was on course for a half a billion pound IPO.

But it stumbled as a shift in the trend cycle left it with too many preppy pieces on its rails and a poorly implemented outsourcing warehouse project also caused problems.

Williams returned to the helm from a three-year break in 2015 and with private equity firm BlueGem he bought out previous backer Inflexion as well as his founding partner.

His return saw some prices being lowered but an overall focus on selling more goods at their original full prices.

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