Darling of AIM now planning to expand empire

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BONMARCHE is planning to establish new stores, just nine months after it opened its doors to investors and floated on the London Stock Exchange.

Since then, its share price has risen by more than 38 per cent, profits have jumped 66 per cent and like-for-like sales are up 10.4 per cent.

The Wakefield-based retailer has undergone a dramatic turnaround since its administration in 2012 and it is one of AIM’s success stories of 2014.

The management team, led by chief executive Beth Butterwick, has taken Bonmarche back to its original mission statement – value and style for ladies over 50.

The company was acquired by private equity firm Sun European Partners in January 2012 from administrators KPMG after its previous owner, Peacocks, saddled with £240m of debt, went into administration. Ms Butterwick joined the company as brand director just before the administration. “I could see the business had incredible potential,” she said.

She was chosen to lead the turnaround of the company and became chief executive. Last November, Sun decided to sell a 40 per cent stake in the business and raised £40m from a stock market flotation.

“Bonmarche was always a very good business in terms of its proposition but it had just been badly managed,” said Ms Butterwick.

A few months later, the company posted pre-tax profits of £8m for the year to March 29, a jump of 66 per cent, while like-for-like sales rose 10.4 per cent. Shares have risen from an initial 200p to around 277p.

“We’re catering for a growing demographic so there’s a great proposition and an opportunity to be had there,” Ms Butterwick said.

The retailer lost its way under the Peacocks ownership but now it has a very clear strategy for growth, which appears to be working. Bonmarche was operating from 390 stores before the administration. After being slimmed down to 265, the group now has around 270 stores, including 18 in Yorkshire. It also has a customer database of 6.5m members, a website, mail order catalogues, a telephone order service and it also sells through a TV shopping channel.

HELPING HAND: Ben Wilson, MD at MPM, with Victoria Hopkins, MD at Hopkins Catering. PIC: Tony Johnson

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