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Bonmarché reports ecommerce sales up by 51% as consumers move online to buy

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Bonmarché this week reported a 51% jump in ecommerce sales as it reported first-half results. It said the rise reflected in part a “continuing shift in consumers’ shopping preferences” to ecommerce, and said that was a shift it would embrace through changes including the introduction next year of a responsive website.

The value retailer said 7.2% of total sales were made online in the first half of its financial year. That was up from 5.4% at the same time last year.

At the same time, like-for-like sales in its stores were up by 7.8%. Total revenue rose to £91.1m in the 26 weeks to September 27, up by 11.8% on last year. Pre-tax profits of £6.4m were up by 68.1%, or 15% on an underlying basis.

Bonmarché said it saw strong seasonal demand in the first quarter, between April and July, when like-for-like sales grew by 13.5%, but a more mixed performance as warm weather continued into the autumn meant second quarter like-for-like sales up by a more modest 2.1%.

Chief executive Beth Butterwick said: “Towards the end of the second quarter, trading conditions became more difficult due to the unseasonably warm weather. These conditions have continued into the second half; however, on the basis that the weather returns to its normal seasonal pattern, the board expects the current year’s performance to be in line with its original expectations.”

In her review she said online sales grew strongly in both quarters but that the growth curve dipped during September.

Multichannel is part of a strategy that also includes improving the range, competitive pricing and expansion into new brands. As well as selling through the Bonmarché brand, the company relaunched the Ann Harvey occasionwear brand online and through 23 stores, and launched a trial of men’s clothing.

In today’s statement Bonmarché said some of the sales growth from online would happen anyway. “Our aim,” it said, “is to embrace this shift, as well as making our online and multichannel experience attractive to customers who may already be converted to online shopping but are new to Bonmarché.”

It said the online sales rise of 50.6% came as visitor numbers rose to 6.3m, from 4.0m. During the first half, it improved website design and overhauled its customer email style. However, it said, overall conversion was down as more visitors came from tablet devices. “Conversion rates from these visits,” it said, “are lower than from visits accessed by traditional PCs or laptops.”

The company is now agreeing a new contract with website provider Venda that will include the introduction of a responsive website in 2015.

It also said that its net promoter score – which measures the extent to which customers would recommend the retailer to others – had hit 50% by the end of the first half, up from 47% at the end of last year. “Coming from an already strong position,” it said, “improvements will become progressively harder to achieve and we therefore regard doing so as a core strategic objective which will require continual focus.”

Elsewhere the company plans to continue a rollout of store refits in the rest of its financial year. By the end of the half-year it had opened four new standalone stores and nine other locations in third party sites including garden centres, department stores and out of town mill centres. That took its overall estate to 262 stores and 13 other sites.

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