CLOTHING chain Bonmarche has announced that it will end its menswear trial after the Christmas season, as new chief executive Helen Connolly scales back “peripheral activities” to focus on modernising and simplifying the business.
Ms Connolly, who became CEO in August, said Wakefield-based Bonmarche has significant potential to keep growing as a retailer serving the 50-plus women’s value clothing market.
She made the comments as Bonmarche revealed that its profit before tax in the half year ended September 24 was £2m, compared with £5.4m in the first half of the previous year, while revenue fell by four per cent over the half year to £93.1m.
Bonmarche said that the weather “was a major variable which adversely affected performance during the first half”.
The company said: “Summer 2016 was characterised by weather which was generally too cool during May, June and July to create demand for seasonal basics such as t-shirts, and then the warm weather during September delayed sales of product, such as coats, planned for the beginning of the autumn/winter season.
“However, the warm September weather resulted in effective clearance of much of the remaining summer stock, albeit at discounted prices.”
Bonmarche was also affected by the fact that one of its biggest competitors, BHS, went into administration in April.
“Over the following months it cleared its residual stock at discounted prices prior to closing its stores, which affected Bonmarché’s sales, particularly in late April and May 2016,” Bonmarche said.
Ms Connolly said she believed that Bonmarche’s “direction of travel is right” but the effectiveness of execution needs to improve.
A Bonmarche spokesman said: “After testing the menswear trial during the late autumn 2014 season, with a limited range in 50 stores, the company has decided to discontinue the menswear trial once the Christmas season collection is sold through.”
Ms Connolly has also simplified the company’s customer profile.
She said: “For internal planning purposes, we have previously defined model customers with reference to four personas – ‘Susan’, ‘Linda’, ‘Margaret’ and ‘Joan’.
“We have now changed this internal guidance to refer to a single persona - Lisa.”
A spokesman said that, although Bonmarché’s target market remained unchanged, “Lisa” represented the “sweetspot” of the company’s aims because the persona focused on more modern lines with a broad appeal to the target market.
The company has also introduced TV fashion presenter Mark Heyes as a brand ambassador.
“Our relationship with Mark Heyes is in its infancy, but our impression is that this arrangement will be beneficial for the brand. Mark currently features on the home page of our website, in our catalogue, and in other promotional material,’’ Ms Connolly said in a statement to accompany the results.
BONMARCHE continues to face considerable uncertainty surrounding market conditions as it approaches the Christmas trading season, the company said.
The statement added: “We believe that the clothing market generally will continue to be challenging. Recent trading has shown an improvement since September, reflecting better ranges and more seasonally appropriate weather, which has supported demand for coats and knitwear in particular. The board’s view is therefore that, in line with the guidance issued in September, the group’s full year PBT (profit before tax) is likely to fall within a range between £5.0m and £7.0m.
“Despite the external challenges, we are confident that Bonmarché remains unique in its ability to serve the needs of its target market.”