Cotton Traders has another strong year, store and e-sales boom

British heritage fashion brand Cotton Traders’ latest set of results on Wednesday saw it reporting another strong year, which it said was its “most successful financial year to date, with a 10.6% year-on-year increase in turnover of £111 million”. 

Cotton Traders

It cited new customer acquisition (up 17% year-on-year), and an increase in active customer retention at 7.5% for the outperformance. 

They helped it to EBITDA that was 3% higher at £12.6 million on the back of 79% of total sales coming from direct channels and 21% coming from Cotton Traders’ store portfolio.

It saw a significant shift in its digital performance”, with online sales up by 16.6% and purchases via the Cotton Traders app increasing by 46% year-on-year. As well as the new and retained customers who contributed to these figures, the company said it has seen changes in customer behaviour “and the switch of existing customers to these channels — thus reflecting the continued popularity of online shopping in the UK”.

That’s particularly interesting coming at a time when physical stores are recovering strongly, and when online is struggling in general with speculation, that e-growth could be difficult to come by for many in the fashion sector. 

So what’s key for Cotton Traders’ e-growth? It said the business is “bringing in a younger, more digitally savvy customer base”, although that doesn’t mean the very young demographic that names like Boohoo and ASOS are struggling with at present. In fact, its average new customer age is now at 56 years old after the brand’s social media activity “has secured a 129% increase in new customer acquisition against the previous year”.

Those customers in their 50’s are clearly almost as digitally engaged as the Gen X and Millennial groups below them in age. They’re also possibly busy and more likely to turn to the internet to shop, as well as having discretionary cash to spend. 

Cotton Traders’ CEO, Nick Hamblin, said: “Over decades of trading, the brand has built long established relationships with its customers based on product quality, service, and trust. It’s hugely reassuring that this reputation is now extending to record numbers of new, younger customers, who we hope will be the foundation of our business for many years to come.”

Other factors attracting new customers are the fact that the firm has made “notable” investments in its operations, brand-building, performance marketing and diversifying its product range in the past year. 

It has invested in its head office and logistics operations “to ensure high levels of customer service remain from the point of purchase through to delivery”. 

The refurbishment of 16 stores, new staff training and the ongoing installation of digital points-of-sale throughout the 77-store estate also helped to secure a 47% increase in new store customers compared to 2021. 

Product expansion has helped with more knitwear, dresses, swimwear, underwear and nightwear ranges following demand in these areas from the brand’s 70% female audience. 

And it has reached these customers via increased TV advertising and digitally-oriented marketing activity, in addition to new celebrity brand ambassadors, including TV actor and personality Will Mellor and TV presenter and model Lisa Snowdon.

It said its awareness and relevancy with prospective customers and spontaneous brand awareness currently stands at 94%. Web sessions have also increased by 17%, showing the success of its brand-building and traffic driving campaigns. 

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