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Fashion chain French Connection says close to turning around business

[LONDON] British fashion retailer French Connection Group Plc posted a smaller annual operating loss on Tuesday, and said it was close to turning in a profit.

The company reported a 0.8 per cent increase in like-for-like sales at its stores in the UK and Europe, and said the retail market place in the UK continued to be "particularly challenging".

French Connection, which made a name for itself selling FCUK branded clothes, has been struggling to fend off competition from fast-fashion rivals such as ASOS Plc, Forever 21 and Inditex's Zara. It has closed stores and hired new management and design teams as it tries to turn the corner.

The company, which also owns the Great Plains and YMC brands, said on Tuesday it closed an additional 11 non-contributing locations during the year.

"While it is clear that the retail market in which we are operating in the UK is unlikely to improve in the near future, we have clear visibility on the benefits we will obtain from the ongoing portfolio rationalisation," Chief Executive Officer Stephen Marks said.

The company said its underlying operating loss for the year ended Jan. 31 came in at 0.6 million pounds (S$1.095 million), compared with a loss of 3.7 million pounds in the prior year.

Revenue rose 0.5 per cent to 154 million pounds.