Firm’s focus on building up its retail footprint.

Briscoe Group's profit has soared 17 per cent but chief executive Rod Duke says the homeware and sports gear retailer could have delivered more.

"If the summer had been kind this year, we would have had a far better result," Duke said yesterday.

The company's performance in the fourth quarter had not been as good as the rest of the year, he said.

"We expected a significantly higher result and so the profit and sales would have been a lot higher had we had a decent season."

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Profit for the year ended January 25 at the group, which owns Briscoes Homeware and Rebel Sports, rose to $39.3 million from $33.6 million the previous year, in line with a prediction of more than $39 million. Sales rose 4.9 per cent to $507.1 million.

The company will pay a final dividend of 8.5c a share on March 31, taking the total for the year to 14c.

Several retailers including Kathmandu and the Warehouse dropped profit guidance in recent months, citing difficult trading conditions.

Duke said the company had also been affected but less than its rivals.

"[The result] is probably a combination of our competitors doing it tough and the stuff that our folks are doing inside the stores and the merchandise they have on offer really resonating with customers," he said. "I think our competitor group will be having a hard time."

Duke said investment in inventory analytics and customer research had boosted profit figures, and a wide range of goods including the addition of high-end products such as Royal Doulton had also had a big effect.

"For a few years I think people have been satisfied with cheapest price, poorest quality and I think they've grown out of that now because very often when you operate in that category, your busiest department is returns," Duke said.

"I think customers' perception of value changes over time with poor experience and I think for at least the last six or seven years we've enjoyed extraordinary growth compared to some of our peer group."

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The company will focus on growth and building up its retail footprint, with renovations planned for the Invercargill and Gisborne Briscoe stores, relocation of its Taupo and Hamilton sites, and five new stores across the country.

Despite improving economic conditions, Duke was cautious about the coming year. "While many commentators are talking up the outlook for the New Zealand economy we anticipate a continuation of recent challenges for retailers," he said.

"However, we are confident that with the initiatives we have in place, our drive to continue to improve the way we do things in every area of the business, and the pleasing start we have made to the new financial year, we will continue to strengthen our position as New Zealand's leading retailer of homeware and sporting goods. We are cautiously optimistic about the year ahead."

The company's shares closed up 4c yesterday at $2.99.

Briscoe Group

• Year ended January 25
• $39.3 million profit, up 17%.
• $507.1 million sales, up 4.9%.
• 14c a share total dividend.