Bonmarché predicted that its business would move further online, but that its stores would remain important to its customers as it unveiled growing profits. Sales were slightly down in a year that saw online sales grow by a third but store sales fall by 4.5%.
Bonmarché reported revenue of £186m in the 52 weeks to March 31, 2.1% down on the £190.1m reported last time. Online sales grew by 34.5%, to account for 9.5% of total sales. That’s up from 7% a year earlier and represents a significant shift in shopper behaviour. This, said Bonmarché, came as it improved the online customer experience and marketing became more effective. But store like-for-like sales – which strip out the effect of store openings and closures – were down by 4.5%. Pre-tax profits of £8m were 38.1% up on the £5.8m reported at the same time last year.
Chief executive Helen Connolly said she was pleased the business had delivered an increase in pre-tax profits against a background of “challenging trading conditions”, and said that it was well placed for future growth in what it expected to be a difficult market.
“We have made good progress in all areas, particularly online, where we have seen strong groth, whilst also making improvements through a number of other self-help initiatives including the product proposition, the loyalty scheme and developing a more agile supply base.”
Bonmarché is a Top150 retailer in IRUK Top500 research. Here’s what the value fashion retailer, founded in 1982 and now selling online and via 327 stores including 271 own stores, and 56 concessions, including 35 in garden centres, said about its multichannel strategy.
Bonmarché says it focuses on its target market’s need for a wider range of sizes at a price that represents value for money and says that, along with the convenience of a presence on the high street, in outlets and garden centres, differentiates it in the eyes of its target customers, fashion and value conscious mature women. It is now focusing on improving the product range, through decisions such as the relaunch of denim in its stores, and on shorter lead times from new suppliers. The focus is also on online, loyalty, through a modernised Bonus Club scheme, stores and systems and processes, where it will replace the legacy ERP system with a cloud-based Microsoft Dynamics 365 system.
Online sales grew by 34.5%, year-on-year, while profitability improved “dramatically” through more efficient marketing and a more streamlined structure. Bonmarché “tightly controlled" its online discounting during the year. Online and offline marketing were supported by redesigned catalogues that encourage customers to visit the website and store. Currently 9.5% of sales are online but Bonmarché expects to see up to 20% of total sales be made online in the future.
“We believe that online shopping’s share of consumer spending will continue to rise, especially for our segment of the market, and a major strategic focus for the future is to seek continuous improvements to this channel and make multichannel customer journeys more seamless,” Bonmarché said in its results. “There are many opportunities in this area and as technology advances, further opportunities will arise.”
In the current financial year, Bonmarche plans to improve the online customer experience and the quality of content, while improving delivery options and, via the use of customer data, making marketing materials more personalised.
Bonmarché says that while it expects online to grow its share of sales, its customers will continue to want to buy, or return items, on the high street. Its in-store ordering system, for example, saw sales of £2m in its latest financial year. It will now take a cautious approach to stores, looking to retain flexibility through shorter leases and market level rents.