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Bonmarché reports online sales hit by disrupted search following responsive site launch

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Bonmarché today said its online sales were hit when the launch of its responsive site disrupted search traffic.

While its ecommerce sales grew by 11.4% in the first quarter of its financial year, they fell by 3.6% in the second half. Online sales of £8.2m in the half-year to September 26 were up by 4.2% overall as a result.

The decline in sales, said the women’s value fashion retailer, came after the launch of a new responsive site on July 6 affected the way search traffic reached the site. “Its development,” said Bonmarché in its half-year figures today, “required making significant changes to the underlying structure of the site which, in particular, interrupted the operation of search engine optimisation, an important generator of traffic.”

The effect on sales was “slightly larger” than expected but, said Bonmarché, “did not materially affect the overall result for the first half”. Costs rose as retailer spent more on paid search advertising during the period when SEO customer traffic was interrupted.

The retailer, a Top150 retailer in InternetRetailing‘s IRUK Top500 research, has appointed a new digital agency to rebuild SEO links and is now targeting year-on-year online sales growth by the end of this financial year.

It also appointed a multichannel and marketing director, Paul Kendrick, during the second quarter.

Bonmarché says that despite the disruption to natural search, the responsive website is working well. “We have achieved the objective we set out to achieve when embarking on the project – to make Bonmarché’s website shop work well regardless of the type of device customers use to access it,” it said in the half-year statement. It also equips the retailer to meet growing traffic from tablet computers – the fastest growing source of new customers to the site, and which now accounts for 44% of web traffic and 40% of sales – up from 37% and 31% respectively the year before.

Bonmarché reported revenues of £97m in the 26 weeks to September 26, 6.5% up on the same time last year. On a store like-for-like basis, which strips out the effect of store openings and closures, sales were up by 2% in the first half – including 6.1% in the second quarter. Pre-tax profits of £5.4m were 15.3% down on the £6.4m reported last time.

Chief executive Beth Butterwick said progress in the first-half had been “satisfactory”. “I am pleased with the improvement in store like-for-likes sales, which is a testament to the value of our loyal customer base, in a market which remains challenging,” she said. “I am also pleased with the progress being made by the new marketing and multichannel teams to turn around online sales.”

Bonmarché sells through stores, online, mail order and the Ideal World TV shopping channel. Its latest figures for online sales contrast with full-year ecommerce sales that were 36% up on the same time last eyar.

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