Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hallenstein Glasson Australian expansion needs expert execution

Hallenstein Glasson [HLG.NZ] net profit for the 2008 half-year after tax fell 6.6 per cent from $9.9 million to $9.2 million, in line with the company's January market guidance.

The results are mirrored in an overall decline in sales of 2 per cent, with group sales for the six months ending February 1 falling from $100.7 million to $98.5 million.

The company has done spectacularly well for so long but in the last few years sales and profit have been stagnant.

It seemed reasonably clear that profit wouldn't continue to climb as rapidly as it has done in the past, because much of it came from focusing on cost reductions in the business and the company now runs a lean mean retailing machine, fixed costs like rising labour expenses and leases aside.

The expansion of women's clothing chain Glassons across Australia is a priority for new Hallenstein Glasson chief executive Shayne Quanchi, who is based in Melbourne herself.

The focus on expansion across the Tasman before stalled growth in New Zealand is seriously looked at, could be of some concern to shareholders.

Even though Quanchi is a 20 year veteran of retailing in Australia, doesn't mean she can make the Kiwi style Glassons chain a rocking and rolling OZ success.

Its competitors there are way more savvy, generally part of the big conglomerates like Coles/Wesfarmers, David Jones, and the like and the differences between similar targeted customers that Glassons has here and its competitors in Australia are vast in their sophistication, choice options and pricing.

Don't get me wrong, Hallensteins is a great company and has done well in New Zealand for generations but the road to Australia for many New Zealand companies and their expansion plans, is littered with the corpses of battered balance sheets and zombie like shareholders who have had their wallets picked.

Clearly Australia is an opportunity for the company in which they can continue to expand but the story so far there has been disappointing when compared with the operations of the New Zealand unit.

One good and important aspect of the result is that gross margins have been maintained and that is no mean feat in the present retailing environment.

Like other retailers, such as Briscoe [BRG.NZ] and The Warehouse Group[WHS.NZ], they are going to struggle this year, as consumers, especially in New Zealand, slow their spending because of increased taxes, petrol and mortgage costs.

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Related Amazon Reading

Inside the Mind of the Shopper: The Science of Retailing
Inside the Mind of the Shopper: The Science of Retailing by Herb Sorensen
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c Share Investor 2008

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