Bonmarche 'cautious' about high street outlook after colder weather hits sales

Womenswear retailer Bonmarche said it is "cautious" about trading on the high street this year after colder weather hit the sales of new spring ranges.

The Wakefield-based firm said like-for-like sales edged up 0.4% in the 13 weeks to March 26, compared with a jump of 4.7% in the same period a year ago. Total sales lifted 5.2% in the period.

The moves comes after the group rattled the market in December after cutting its pre-tax profit forecasts by as much as 20% to between £10.5 million and £12 million.

However, the group now says its full-year profit will be at the lower end of its December guidance. Shares slumped by 10% in early trading.

Chief executive Beth Butterwick said: "Post-Christmas, trading conditions have continued to be quite challenging, with the exception of January where we saw a higher than average demand for autumn/winter sale stock.

"Although helpful in clearing these ranges, the continued colder weather has been unhelpful in kick-starting real demand for spring products."

Ms Butterwick added: "Overall, consumer confidence does not appear buoyant and, given that context, I believe that the provisional results represent a creditable performance."

She added that the group expected conditions would remain challenging and that its outlook for 2017 was "cautious".

Last month Lord Wolfson, the chief executive of fashion bellwether Next, warned the year ahead on the high street was set to be the "toughest we have faced since 2008" as he cautioned over profits amid fears of a consumer spending slump.

Also in March, Bonmarche said Helen Connolly will replace the respected Ms Butterwick, who will leave the firm to head up rival retailer Karen Millen.

Ms Connolly is currently senior buying director for Asda's George clothing business and will join Bonmarche as its new boss later this year, the company announced, without giving a specific start date.

Bonmarche employs just over 3,100 staff across 292 shops and concessions.