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House of Bruar in £1.5m sales rise

House of Bruar, the "Highland Harrods", hiked its trading profit by £1 million last year on a sales rise of less than £1.5m, accounts just published at Companies House have revealed.

The retailer, based on the A9 near Blair Atholl, was put up for sale in 2010 by owners Mark and Linda Birkbeck, who founded it 20 years ago but wanted to retire, before being sold this year to son Patrick Birkbeck for a reported £45m.

Reports said one external bidder had been unable to safeguard the 200 workforce while a second had wanted the Birkbecks to stay on.

The accounts show a highly successful trading year dented by a £4.7m write-down on the value of debt owed to the company by M & L Birkbeck Property, with £2.7m of the debt still outstanding. Turnover was up 7.5% from £18.6m to £20m, while operating profit jumped 34% to £3.84m. But the writedown saw a £2.85m pre-tax profit in 2010 slide to a £798,000 loss last year.

Mark Birkbeck writes the improvement came on the back of "substantial investment" on the site and adds: "We're proud of the progress shown by the developments in what has to be described as a difficult year."

He says the general state of the economy is "a concern for luxury retailing" but Bruar is "well placed to withstand any market downturn" as reflected in improved margins in the past two years.

Employment rose from 181 to 196, and cash at the debt-free group rose from £2.7m to £3m.

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