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Bonmarché CEO: ‘We need to go faster’

The chief executive of Bonmarché, Helen Connolly, has told Drapers the value womenswear retailer needs to accelerate plans to grow online sales to turn its fortunes around.

Underlying profit before tax fell 21% to £3.3m in the 26 weeks to 29 September as like-for-like sales slipped by 1%. Store only like-for-like sales declined by 4%.

However, online sales were up by 28.9%, and now account for 12% of total sales at Bonmarché, up from 9%.

“Driving online sales is key to our strategy and we need to do it faster,” said Connolly.

“We have gone from 9% to 12%, which is good progress, but we have a long way to go to get to the industry average.”

The business is driving online growth by extending size options and lengths online, and introducing third-party brands to the website.

“We have extended our range of options significantly and 20% of our online sales are from online exclusives. [Online] we have additional leg lengths and skirt lengths – those fit options are driving sales.

“We are also looking at adding other brands online to see what works well.”

To improve stores sales Bonmarché has recently introduced a new replenishment system driven by artificial intelligence, which will “help get the right stock in the right places” based on previous sales data.

The business is also modernising the store estate by investing in window displays, digital screens, and new fixtures and fittings, to “improve the shopping experience without spending a lot of money.”

Bonmarché launched its Black Friday discounts today offering “buy one, get one half price” across all categories and daily “mega-deals” on specific products.

Connolly said the market will continue to be promotional in the run-up to Christmas.

“There is a huge appetite for discounting in the run up to Christmas. All categories are not equal however. We need to stay close to it and be responsive to what’s selling. I don’t want to discount areas that are flying out, but other areas might need a tickle. Post- Black Friday there will be levels of sales required.”


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