Bonmarche beats rivals as it turns to fashion ranges

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Over-50’s womenswear retailer Bonmarche reported stellar like-for-like sales growth despite the warm autumnal weather, putting rivals such as Marks & Spencer and Next in the shade.

Wakefield-based Bonmarche said underlying sales rose 7.8 per cent in the six months to September 27, boosted by the introduction of more contemporary styles as women over 50 demand more stylish, fashionable ranges.

The group said the warm weather hit October and November sales, but with the cold snap arriving this week it expects annual results to be in line with expectations.

Bonmarche’s chief executive Beth Butterwick said: “With the warm autumnal weather, trading was more difficult in October and November, but we took appropriate action so we are very pleased.”

This action involved introducing “transitional” ranges that can be worn between the seasons. This typically involves layering so customers can put on a cardigan or top when cold and take it off if the weather warms up.

“We launched transitional products for the autumn such as everyday separates, not knitwear and coats so much,” said Ms Butterwick.

At the same time the group has become less “classic” and more “contemporary” as women in their 50’s, 60s, 70s and 80s refuse to adhere to old stereotypes about how they should dress.

“Customers are embracing the shift to more contemporary designs. They are a lot more style conscious,” said Ms Butterwick.

She said that one of the group’s best sellers has been the tummy tuck and bottom lift jeans.

The group has reinforced its “first price, right price” policy, which ensures that the lowest priced items in any category is competitive and offers value for money when measured against rivals.

“We’re not the cheapest. We’re 20 per cent more expensive than the supermarkets, but we’re 20 per cent less expensive than Marks & Spencer,” said Ms Butterwick.

Over the autumn Bonmarche launched a menswear trial, following requests from existing female customers.