Bad news for Bonmarche as sales slump over Christmas

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Struggling high street retailer Bonmarche recorded a sales slump in its latest results as Christmas trading failed to deliver festive cheer.

The womenswear fashion chain reported that like-for-like sales in the 13 weeks to 29 December fell 7.8%, while total sales dropped 8.1%.

In store alone, comparable sales plunged 11.1%.

The figures come after the company posted a December profit warning, which sent shares plummeting.

Bonmarche said at the time that it could face a £4m annual loss amid “unprecedented” tough trading conditions.

Chief executive Helen Connolly said conditions on the high street are worse than those seen following the financial crisis.

The company said trading during the Black Friday week was “extremely poor”, with continued lacklustre demand despite “extensive” discounting. It also blamed Brexit for fuelling consumer woes.

Ms Connolly said: “Clearly, in the short time since our last update, macro market conditions have not changed, but I am pleased that the sale stock is clearing well and that trading is in line with our revised expectations.

“In the short-term, we continue to focus on ending the year with a clean stock position and ensuring that our balance sheet remains healthy.”

Despite the bleak picture, one area of growth was online, where sales rose 22% in the third quarter, although that was still slower than in Bonmarche’s first half.

Shares were up nearly 7% in morning trading to 39.5p.

Ms Connolly added: “Looking forward, the board remains confident in Bonmarche’s prospects and strategy and we will continue to drive the implementation of our previously outlined plans, maintaining a particularly strong emphasis on increasing multichannel sales.”

Maureen Hinton at research firm GlobalData said: “Yet again Bonmarche’s Q3 has dragged down the retailer’s overall performance year to date, with its customers not engaging with the retailer’s offer during the important festive season.

“Even its online business had a lower growth rate than the rest of the year.

“This suggests either it is just not producing a compelling enough autumn/winter range for its customers, or that the demographic is just not interested in adding yet more higher-priced winter garments to their wardrobe.”

She added: “Though clothing retailers across the board have been reporting that November was very poor and there has been extensive discounting, most are still producing positive sales for the quarter, even though mainly driven by online, and few have given a profit warning, which makes Bonmarche one of the worst performers over the period.”

(c) Sky News 2019: Bad news for Bonmarche as sales slump over Christmas

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