Bonmarché has been pushing its contemporary style credentials through a trial advertising campaign and a new personal shopping service in a bid to attract a new group of customers, as well as encouraging its existing customers to embrace more a more modern look.
“We know that our average 60-year-old customer feels more like 40 today and there is a whole group of women that fit into our target market but might not know about us,” said chief executive Beth Butterwick, as the value retailer revealed sales rose 6.5% to £97m for the 26 weeks ended September 26 against the previous year.
Profit before tax was stable at £6.4m before exceptional items, which included £1m relating to the retailer’s listing on the London Stock Exchange from Aim.
Butterwick said customers are continuing to embrace more contemporary ranges, which now equate to 74% by product mix.
The retailer introduced personal shopping during the period, as a way of engaging with the customer and encouraging her to select more modern looks.
“With occasionwear for example, we have been introducing whole outfits as well as more contemporary pieces that she might not ordinarily go for herself,” she said.
Bonmarché also trialled an advertising campaign in four regional television areas in the North East and North West during October and November.
“We saw very good sales in stores in those areas with anecdotal feedback in stores that it was attracting new customers so that is something we will look to build on in the next year,” she said.
The company is focused on its multichannel and marketing operations and made a number of key appointments during the first half. Online sales currently account for 7% of total sales.
Paul Kendrick joined as marketing and multichannel director in September, replacing Alison Lancaster who held the position on an interim basis. He was previously at N Brown Group for seven years, most recently as customer, financial services and international director.
To support Kendrick, the company also appointed Paul Sanderson as head of ecommerce, who joined from consultancy Salmon in August, Stuart Lee as website manager, who joined from Pure Collection in September, Nicola Wordsworth as multichannel trading controller, who joined from Lands’ End, and Rachael Stocks, who has joined as customer acquisition marketing manager.
This year, the retailer will be launching Black Friday promotions in store and throughout the week, rather than holding offers online for one day as it did last year.
“Black Friday was our biggest online sales day ever last year but our customers said they needed more time and they also wanted it in stores too so that’s what we’ll be doing this year,” said Butterwick. Bonmarché has bought product specifically for the promotional day on November 27 and is also holding a pre-planned Bonus event before Christmas.
The retailer has also moved to a more frequent delivery to stores during the period, moving from three to 10 days to between two and five. Bonmarché is now three days quicker on average for lead times to store, Butterwick said.