Shares plunge to new lows after Bonmarche profit alert

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Shares in over 50’s clothing chain Bonmarche plunged to new lows after the retailer issued a profits warning following the September heatwave which has prevented shoppers from buying autumnal clothing.

Shares in the Wakefield-based firm closed down ​22 per cent to ​90p​ following the shock warning, which follows disappointing trading over the spring and summer when bad weather deterred shoppers from buying summer ranges.​

​Analysts said the warning could have implications for the bigger players in Britain’s clothing market, which have already endured unhelpful summer weather patterns, with June a washout.

​Bonmarche said​ t​rading in September has been ​“​extremely poor​“​, largely as a consequence of the unseasonably hot weather which has not favoured sales of ​its​ new autumn ranges of coats, knitwear and trousers. The retailer said it expects like-for-like sales at its shops to plunge by 8​ per cent​ in the second quarter and in the first half of the year. As a result, Bonmarche said full year pre-tax profit will come in at between £5​m and £7​m. ​Analysts at Investec were previously forecasting ​profits of £​12.5​m.

​Bonmarche said​ it is facing ​“​considerable uncertainty​“​ as to market conditions​ as it ​approach​es​ the second half of the year​.

​It said the hot September has prevented ​it​ from gaining a ​good measure of the strength of ​its​ autumn ranges and ​it believes that the clothing market generally has become more challenging.

​New ​CEO​ Helen Connolly, who took up the role last month, said she is “formulating my plans for the future”, adding: “The direction of travel is right, but the effectiveness of execution needs to improve. My plans are therefore likely to focus on improving the clarity of the customer proposition and operational improvements in all channels rather than a major strategic repositioning.”

​Analyst ​Kate Calvert at Investec, said the shares will “remain friendless” until Ms Connolly outlines her strategy and performance impro​ves.​​

​I​ndependent retail analyst Nick Bubb​ said:​ “Attention now turns to whether Marks & Spencer and Debenhams will have to bring forward their planned updates on current trading​.”​

Both M&S and Debenhams declined to comment. M&S is due to publish half​ ​year results on Nov​ember​ 8, while Debenhams is due to report full​ ​year results on October​ 27.

On the plus side, Bonmarche said summer garments have sold well during the September heatwave. The warm weather resulted in the sale of twice as many units of summer sale stock as in the same month last year.

The other area that has sold well is stock that is not geared to any particular season such as biker jackets and Aztec print jackets.

In June, ​Bonmarche said full​ ​year pre-tax profits ​fell by more than a fifth to £9.6​m, down from £12.4​m in 2015, as it grappled with an “unusually difficult year”.

​In July it reported a disappointing 8 per cent slide in like-for-like sales in the three months to June 25 and blamed ​the ​bad weather. At the time the group reported a lack of strong demand across its high summer clothing categories.

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