01 July 1997

REPORTING a further decline in Great Universal Stores' mail order business, chairman Lord Wolfson of Sunningdale announced a move away from its traditional phonebook-size catalogues to smaller niche publications. In the wake of profits slippage - down almost 2% to £571m - GUS announced an autumn '97 launch for four new catalogues targeting niche markets. The first offers up-market clothing under the GUS-owned Burberry label; another will sell sports and leisure goods targeting the 18-30 age group; a third caters for the more amply proportioned, while the fourth will peddle Disney brands. Said Wolfson: 'Purchasing power is going to the middle market', admitting that 'big book' home shopping is no longer a growth industry - although he predicts that the agency/catalogue system will survive 'for ten to twenty years'. He also revealed that GUS is on the prowl for a sizeable acquisition to offset the decline in its historic markets and find a nest for its £700m cash egg - investigating ways in which it could use its 'skills in information technology, telephone ordering and product delivery.'