Bonmarché became the latest retailer to see a decline in sales over the Christmas trading period, with a fall of 5.5 per cent year-on-year.
The Wakefield-based firm’s board said it that its profit expectation for the year remains unchanged despite like-for-like sales decreasing by 9.7 per cent.
The fall was offset by a growth in online sales of 28.5 per cent.
It was a pattern repeated over the course of the year, with overall sales for the 39 weeks ended December 30 increased by 0.9 per cent, with store like-for-like sales decreasing by 2.8 per cent and online sales increasing by 35.5 per cent.
The firm said it adjusted its stock purchasing plans in expectation of a continuation of difficult market conditions during our third quarter, meaning therefore the level of discounting was reduced compared to last year, resulting in a slight improvement in the gross margin percentage.
Helen Connolly, Chief Executive Officer of Bonmarché, said: “The clothing market became more challenging during this quarter, especially on the high street; consequently our store LFL was disappointing. We are pleased with the strong growth we achieved in online sales, reflecting our strategic focus in this area. Following the trend seen throughout this year, the 50+ women’s outer/sportswear market declined compared to last year, however Bonmarché continued to grow its share*.
“There remains uncertainty as to how trading conditions will evolve as we enter our final quarter. We do not anticipate material changes in the underlying market conditions, and in this short term outlook, the weather represents the most significant uncertainty due to its effect on consumer shopping behaviour, with the risks equally weighted on the up and downsides. At the end of the third quarter, the Board’s view of the likely outcome for the full year remains in line with previous expectations.
“Looking further ahead, whilst we expect the market to remain difficult, we have a number of self help initiatives in progress or planned for FY19, which are expected to deliver profitable like for like sales growth in stores, and the continuation of strong sales growth online.”