Womenswear retailer Bonmarche said it has made a solid start to the year despite like-for-like sales falling in its first quarter following inconsistent spring and early summer weather which put shoppers off buying new clothes.
The Wakefield-based firm said overall sales, including new store openings, rose 3.8 per cent in the 13 weeks to June 27, but like-for-like sales fell 1.7 per cent as a result of the mixed weather patterns which saw temperatures plummet to unseasonably cool weather and then soar to 37 degrees.
Shoppers tend to wait for a settled spell of sunny weather before they buy the spring/summer collections.
Bonmarche was also up against very strong comparatives as sales rose 13.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2014.
Beth Butterwick, CEO of Bonmarche, said: “We have made a solid start to the new financial year. Our like-for-like run rate shows an improvement compared to the previous quarter, despite inconsistent spring and early summer weather.”
Like-for-like sales fell 4.7 per cent in the 13 weeks to March 28.
“We continue to make progress with the execution of our strategic initiatives. We are listening to our customers’ feedback, based on which, our plans will evolve. At this early stage the board remains confident of achieving its expectations for the year,” said Ms Butterwick.
The group said its financial position remains sound and the board’s expectations for the full year are unchanged.
Analyst Kate Calvert at Investec said: “Despite tough comparatives and volatile trading conditions in the clothing sector, an improvement in like-for-like sales for the first quarter represents an encouraging start to the new financial year.
“New store openings remain on track and we expect a return to like-for-like growth in the second quarter as comparatives ease and self-help measures kick in.
“We continue to see ongoing growth opportunities through online, new space and range and price architecture extension.“
Bonmarche has seen strong demand for cropped trousers, shorts and swimwear as the over 50s embrace catwalk fashion that has been modified to suit more mature women.
At a time when M&S has been criticised for designing frumpy outfits, Bonmarche said its customers are demanding more fashionable products as they refuse to adhere to old-fashioned views about how mature women should dress.
Much of the change has been led by Ms Butterwick who is championing on trend clothes for over 50s that flatter the figure and avoid fashion faux pas such as bare top arms, tight fitting waists and showing too much cleavage or leg.