UPDATED: Bad weather blamed for slide in sales at Bonmarché

Beth Butterwick, chief executive of Bonmarche
Beth Butterwick, chief executive of Bonmarche
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Bad weather has been blamed for a poor first trading quarter with fashion chain Bonmarché.

Sales with the women’s clothing retailer declind by 3.6 per cent for the first quarter of 2016 while like-for-like sales fell by 8.1 per cent.

Our expectation for the full year remains unchanged, on the assumption that trading conditions normalise through the autumn season.”

The figures compare with growth of 5.2 per cent for the quarter prior and of a 3.8 per cent growth in the same quarter in 2015.

The Wakefield-based group is about to come under new management and is the latest high street retailer to report disappointing results.

However bosses at the retailer, which particularly targets the over 50s market, said they hoped to see conditions pick up for the remainder of 2016.

A spokesman said: “Trading during the first quarter has been difficult principally due to continued poor weather.

“It is not unusual for external conditions to create significant variations in quarterly performance, and therefore our expectation for the full year remains unchanged on the assumption that trading conditions normalise through the autumn season. The Company’s financial position remains sound.

Beth Butterwick, outgoing chief executive, said: “Sales were down 3.6 per cent in a challenging quarter, due to a lack of strong demand across our high summer clothing categories.

“We continue to focus on creating a more modern experience for our customers through the execution of our five strategic pillars for growth: brand development and customer acquisition, product development, channels to market, systems and processes, and people and culture. Our expectation for the full year remains unchanged, on the assumption that trading conditions normalise through the autumn season.”

Ms Butterwick is due to step down next month and will be replaced by Helen Connolly, previously a senior buyer for Asda’s George clothing range.

Ms Butterwick is taking on a new role at upmarket fashion retailer Karen Millen after four years at Bonmarché during which time she turned the business around from one that was in administration to one that became a stock market-listed firm.

Focusing on a strategy of providing age appropriate clothing to women aged 50 and over- a market of some 12.7m people representing 40 per cent of all British women - the retailer’s prospects rose.

During her tenure the business was acquired by Sun Capital Partners and underwent a successful IPO on the AIM market in 2013 before moving to the main market last year.

The gloomy update saw shares fall with Bonmarché by as much as nine per cent.

This year it accounced a major advertising after tying up with new brand ambassador, TV fashion presenter Mark Heyes, who made his name on the Lorraine Kelly show.

The tie up with Mr Heyes is part of a new initiative to attract younger shoppers in their 50’s.

At the moment Bonmarche’s average shopper is 65 and the group is keen to attract stylish, younger women.

Set up in 1982 and headquartered at Jubilee Way in Wakefield it currently operates 316 stores across the UK as well as trading via its website and mail order catalogies.

It also sells via the Ideal World TV shopping channel.

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