Belfast Telegraph

Unseasonable weather hits profits at Bonmarche

Womenswear retailer Bonmarche has booked a slide in profits as unseasonable weather took its toll on sales.

The value chain said full-year pre-tax profits dropped by more than a fifth to £9.6 million, down from 12.4 million in 2015, as it grappled with an "unusually difficult year".

It said like-for-like store sales were up 0.7% in the 52 weeks to March 26 this year, compared with a rise of 4% in 2015 . Total sales rose 5.3% over the period.

Chairman John Coleman said: "The external trading environment was particularly tough; the shopping habits of Bonmarche's customers are significantly influenced by weather, and for much of the full year 2016 it gave them little reason to make seasonal purchases, which anecdotally has been reflected in the performance of other similar retailers."

Like-for-like store sales grew by 2% in the first half of the year, but its fortunes took a turn when "lacklustre" trading in the summer and autumn, coupled with record mild temperatures in December, caused life-for-like store sales to drop 0.6% in the second half.

It added that like-for-like sales had picked up in January, lifting 12.1% thanks to a strong demand for sale items. However, it said "this growth was short-lived" as cold wet weather in the early part of the year put customers off buying" traditional Spring" clothes.

The Wakefield-based firm said total revenues climbed 5.3% to £188 million for the full year, compared to 178.6 million in 2015.

It said online sales stepped up 3.6% over the period.

The company said it would hike the total dividend by 5% to 7.14 pence per share in "a sign of its confidence" in its ability to "navigate these challenging times".

Share were up more than 2%.

Helen Connolly will replace Bonmarche's respected chief executive Beth Butterwick , who will leave the firm to head up rival retailer Karen Millen. Ms Connolly will join Bonmarche as its new boss later this year.