Bonmarche, a well-known value women’s fashion store, continues to find it difficult to increase its sales. However, despite a growth slippage and difficult conditions to change, its profit guidance has started to increase. And preliminary figures show that the company has indeed turned somewhat of a corner.
Bonmarche, a Yorkshire-based womenswear group, saw a 4.3% fall in the store sales on April 1, 2017, compared to the previous year. Thanks to an increase in online sales, however, the overall drop in sales was just 0.5%. Online sales were, in fact, 2.2% on the up. Yet, although these sales figures are not quite rosy yet, they were rosy enough for the retailer to predict their pre-tax profit forecast would hit just above the middle of their prediction, which was between £5 million and £7 million.
The company issued an official profit warning in September 2016, when it saw year on year pre-tax profits dropped by 50%, to just £2 million, down from £5.4. With a new chief executive, Helen Connolly, at its helm, however, it seems changes are on the way. A representative from the company says: “What Helen has done is understand that there will be some significant challenges in the apparel market this year. However, we have made offerings to our customers that are far more relevant to their needs, such as cutting the menswear section and improving our online offering. We fully believe that Bonmarche is a unique store that offers something for which there is a huge demand. As a result of this, if we continue to follow Helen’s direction and that of the Board, we should see growth during the next fiscal year.”
Since the Christmas period, trading has been challenging not just for Bonmarche, but for all womenswear fashion houses. However, despite these shrinking sales, the company has been able to upgrade its pre-tax forecast for overall profits, returning to the numbers they saw before their huge slump in September 2016.
What Helen Connolly seems to have been able to do, is recognize where the flaws in Bonmarche lie, and how to change them. This started with her cutting the menswear line, including from the store’s online offerings, by Christmas. A representative says: “Far too much energy was being poured into something that brought so very little back. Bonmarche is known for its womenswear, and that is what we wanted to return to.”
A second thing Connolly did was get rid of the four personas that the store had, replacing her with just one persona – Lisa – who represented them all and was slightly younger as well. According to the representative: “The average age of our shopper is 65. We now aim to drop this to 50, understanding that a woman of 50 today has very different needs than a woman of 50 just 20 years ago.”
Thirdly, Connolly has aimed to change the company’s supply chain. When she took over, almost all of the company’s supplies came from China, leading to a 28 week on average turnaround time. Today, suppliers in Morocco, Turkey, and India have been found, reducing the turnaround time to between 18 and 20 weeks, a fantastic improvement.
The representative adds: “Connolly really knows what she is doing and all her changes have paid off massively so far. If she can do all of this in less than a year, imagine what Bonmarche will be like in the next fiscal year! We really have great confidence, and we have been informed that investors have increased their confidence in us once again as well. The future is looking great!”