Over 50s fashion chain Bonmarche is to launch its first major TV advertising campaign this autumn after tying up with new brand ambassador, TV fashion presenter Mark Heyes, who made his name on the Lorraine Kelly show.
The tie up with Mr Heyes is part of a new initiative to attract younger shoppers in their 50s. At the moment Bonmarche’s average shopper is 65 and the Wakefield-based group is keen to attract stylish, younger women.
Outgoing chief executive Beth Butterwick said: “Mark is a well known style ambassador. He is well liked and well regarded.
“Mark is here to to attract women going into their 50s. These women celebrate life. If we can attract them in their 50s, we can take them on a journey with us. If we can make the collections younger and attract women in their 50s, women in their mid-60s will follow.”
Bonmarche believes Mr Heyes will help it to tap into changing demographic trends that favour the group. There are now 12.7 million women in the UK who are over 50 and they make up 40 per cent of British women. This figure will rise to rise to nearly 50 per cent by 2020.
The new TV campaign will follow a test in 90 locations in the North.
“That campaign got new customers in store,” said Ms Butterwick.
The TV campaign will be backed by magazine and press advertising.
Bonmarche announced its plans as it reported a fall in annual profits as the unseasonable weather took its toll on sales.
The value chain said full year pre-tax profits dropped by more than a fifth to £9.6m, down from 12.4m in 2015, as it grappled with cold and rainy weather. Underlying pre-tax profits fell to £10.6m, stripping out the £1m of exceptional costs that were incurred with moving to the main market.
However it has performed better than many of its rivals. Bonmarche reported a 0.7 per cent rise in like-for-like store sales in the 52 weeks to March 26.
Like-for-like sales in Marks and Spencer’s clothing and home arm fell by 2.7 per cent in the 13 weeks to 26 March.
However Bonmarche’s performance was down from a rise of 4 per cent in 2015.
Total sales rose 5.3 per cent over the period as it opened new stores.
Ms Butterwick said the group has seen a strong week of trading following the good weather this past week.
“It’s the dryness more than anything. The wet and cold period has gone on for so long, there is a lot of pent up demand,” she said.
“Crop tops, T-shirts, swimwear and summer footwear are selling well after such a long period of coats. Customers are getting to the store and they can’t wait to celebrate the summer.”
Chairman John Coleman said: “The external trading environment was particularly tough. The shopping habits of Bonmarche’s customers are significantly influenced by weather, and for much of the full year 2016 it gave them little reason to make seasonal purchases, which anecdotally has been reflected in the performance of other similar retailers.”
Bonmarche’s sales picked up in January, rising 12 per cent on a like-for-like basis thanks to a strong demand for sale items.
However, it said this growth was short-lived as cold wet weather in the early part of the year put customers off buying traditional Spring clothes.
Revenues rose 5.3 per cent to £188m for the full year.
Online sales were solid, rising 3.6 per cent over the period.
The company said it will hike the total dividend by 5 per cent to 7.14p per share in a sign of its confidence in its ability to navigate challenging times.
Helen Connolly will replace Bonmarche’s chief executive Beth Butterwick, who is leaving the firm to head up upmarket retailer Karen Millen. Ms Connolly was previously senior buying director for Asda’s George clothing business.
“I’m working with Helen in my transition,” said Ms Butterwick, who is credited with turning around Bonmarche.
“I haven’t got a leaving date.”