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Bonmarché to modernise product as part of revamp

Bonmarché is focusing on developing its smart-casual offering in a bid to modernise its product range, as profit before tax dropped by 40% in 2017.

For the year to 1 April, group profit before tax at fell to £5.8m at the value retailer, down from £9.6m in 2016.

EBITDA fell by 23% to £11m and like-for-like sales dipped by 4.3% to £192.5m.

However, revenue climbed 1.1% to £190.1m, while online sales rose by 2.2%.

The retailer said its performance was affected by numerous factors including a casual range that was “not sufficiently appealing”, a lack of focus on product innovation and unseasonal weather patterns.

Chief executive Helen Connolly, who joined Bonmarché in August, told Drapers the results mark “a good place to start”, since they came in above its half-year results in September.

For the 26 weeks to 24 September, profit before tax and exceptional items had fallen 63% compared with the same period in 2015, to £2m. Total sales were down 4% to £93.1m, and like-for-like sales fell by 8.6%.

Connolly said: “It’s fair to say the 50-plus market has been challenging. Fundamentally, our aims now are to create a more modernised product offering and grow our online business, as part of a more multichannel mindset.

“We don’t want to alienate our classic customer, but modern products are where we have seen improved sales. We are doing a lot of work from a product perspective. We are focusing on offering the right mix of smart and casual products – we have found smart-casual is a sweet spot for us.”

In line with this strategy, Bonmarché relaunched its denim range in April with the introduction of four new jeans styles: straight leg, bootcut, slim leg and jeggings.

The collection, which has been rolled out across 70 stores to date, has been re-sourced from China to Bangladesh in a bid to improve margins. 

The retailer has also been investing in its retail structure by bringing in more area managers into more stores, creating 26 new roles.

Connelly said changes to the head office structure made last autumn, which involved a handful of mid-management level redundancies as revealed by Drapers in November, have bedded in successfully. No further changes are anticipated over the coming year.

“There may well be future changes but for now, we’re pleased with everything as it currently is,” added Connolly.

Bonmarché will reshape its loyalty scheme to integrate both online and in-store systems, and focus on online growth and shopkeeping after introducing a new online platform in September.

The business appointed Simon Calvert in April as its new trading director, to oversee ecommerce, merchandising, logistics and marketing.

Calvert most recently worked as commercial and merchandising consultant at retail consultancy Future Today, and has previously held roles at Republic and BHS.

Meanwhile, Connolly said that the business has successfully created a “more agile” supply base. Having previously sourced mainly from China the business has signed on new suppliers closer to home in countries including Egypt, Turkey and Morocco.

Bonmarché expects the business to return to growth in the next financial year, when Connolly’s strategy will be reflected in the results.


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