Bonmarché shares fall 20% amid store sales slump

Bonmarché CEO Helen Connolly

Shares of Wakefield-based Bonmarché, the discount fashion retailer aimed at women over 50, fell about 20% on Thursday after it said sales in its stores “have not maintained the momentum gained during Q1, and are below expectations.”

Full-year underlying profit before taxation is now expected to fall to around £5.5 million from £8 million.

In a trading update, Bonmarché said: “In the update issued on 26 July 2018 in respect of the first quarter of the current financial year, we noted that trading during Q1 had been significantly better than in the final quarter of FY18, particularly the store LFL sales performance.

“Based on this encouraging start, the board was confident that by continuing to improve Bonmarché’s proposition to customers, the group would achieve further profit growth during FY19.

“During the second quarter of the financial year, online sales have continued to grow strongly, in line with expectations, but sales in the stores have not maintained the momentum gained during Q1, and are below expectations.

“The continuation of warm weather for an extended period may have delayed demand for early autumn stock, but we believe that the more dominant factor is that underlying consumer demand for the UK high street is weaker which is impacting footfall.

“In light of the recent downturn in store trading, the board has reviewed the company’s forecasts for the remainder of FY19.

“Online sales are expected to grow at least at the rate seen recently, through further improvements to the online shopping experience, and the extension of online exclusive ranges.

“However, due to the uncertainty regarding high street footfall, we believe it prudent to reduce the store sales forecast for the second half of the year.

“Planned group discretionary operating expenditure for the balance of the year has been reviewed and reduced where appropriate, but a measured view has been taken, so as not to jeopardise the ability of the company to implement improvements designed to deliver growth in future years.

“As a result of these changes to the store forecast, the underlying profit before taxation for the group for FY19 is now expected to be approximately £5.5m (FY18: £8.0m).”

Bonmarché CEO Helen Connolly said: “These are undoubtedly challenging times in the retail industry and, in common with many other businesses, Bonmarché’s store trading has been impacted by weaker consumer sentiment and footfall.

“We have continued to improve our proposition, particularly our digital capabilities, reflected in the strong online sales.

“We remain focussed on exploiting the opportunity afforded by the increasing demand for online shopping, whilst modernising the store offer and customer experience.

“Whilst it is disappointing that FY19’s result is expected to be lower than originally planned, despite the challenging market, the health of the business remains strong: excluding the impact of the FX headwind, this year’s underlying PBT expectation would be in line with the £8.0m achieved in FY18.

“The board remains confident in the strategy set out in our FY18 results, and in the Company’s long-term prospects.”