The company will unveil between 20 and 30 footwear ranges in 200 of its stores in February and claims that it will become a£10 million business.
Bonmarché managing director Mark Tesseyman said: “We’ve been encouraged by the growth that other fashion retailers have found in the footwear market.”
The retailer, which sells womenswear in sizes 10 to 24 with accompanying accessories, tested footwear in a few stores 18 months ago. “We’ve waited a while to launch a full range because we were concentrating on getting clothing right first,” said Tesseyman.
This month, Bonmarché opened two new-model shops and introduced its first designer collection – by Princess Diana’s wedding dress designer David Emanuel – into 100 stores.
The stores and designer range target Bonmarché’s expanding customer base. “Our core customer is conservative women aged 60 and over, but we are now attracting women aged between 45 and 55 and these women want fashionable pieces as well as the basics. Our research showed that they were prepared to pay that little extra,” said Tesseyman.
The new-look stores opened in Coalville, Leicestershire and the Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield. They feature a mixture of black, white and silver Perspex with different sections backlit with neon pink. In the Sheffield outlet there is a 1970s-style abacus running through the centre of the shop lit in pink and white.
“The new stores have a more modern look without alienating our core customer and the designer range is priced about 25 per cent higher than our normal range, but still reasonable, with the most expensive being a jacket for£65,” said Tesseyman.
Two more new-look stores will open at Bury St Edmunds and Oldham later this year.