Bonmarché is forging ahead with plans for a multichannel future as it trials new shopfits, more stores in garden centres and a revamp of its digital back office.
The value retailer is set to publish above-expectation results at its prelims on June 13, and has already revealed like-for-like growth of 13.5% for the 13 weeks to March 29. Full-year growth will come in at 10.4%.
Including online sales, sales over the three-month period rose 16.3%, with year growth at 13.1%.
Speaking to Drapers, chief financial officer Steve Alldridge said it was “hugely reassuring” to have performed strongly for Bonmarché’s first year-end as a publicly listed company. The 250-store chain floated on Aim in November.
“The City can be an unforgiving place if you come to market and then do anything disappointing before investors get to know you, so in that respect it’s a huge relief,” he added.
On the back of these results, Bonmarché will now be investing in digital development – including the launch of a responsive site towards the end of 2014, the introduction of a new EPOS system and changes to its fulfilment, which is currently handled by the Royal Mail.
Alldridge noted that this was “not revolutionary” but would “significantly underpin” online growth, which is seen as a major plank of Bonmarché’s future strategy.
As well as this, the company is about to start trialling its second garden centre store. Its first launched just outside Bicester Village last autumn and was “trading fantastically well”.
“These locations are absolutely full of people who could be our customer,” Alldridge said. “The demographic fits well for us – it’s a leisure activity that just fits perfectly with what we are about. I do think there is potential there, but it’s early days.”
The company is also considering opening shops on cruise ships, although there are no trials lined up imminently, and Alldridge said this would not become a major source of revenue.
The store refit, which started last year, is being refined and trialled in another seven stores. From that a “blueprint” for the wider estate will be built, with the roll out expected to take place from 2015.