• Sales rose 5.2% in the fourth quarter
  • Trading conditions remain challenging
  • Consumer confidence fragile

Bonmarché has reported that trading conditions remain “challenging” and that profits will come in at the lower end of expectations.

The womenswear retailer, which issued a profit warning last December, said that sales rose 5.2% in the quarter to March 26.

On a like-for-like basis, including online, revenues inched up 0.5%.

That brought the sales change for the year to the same date to 5.3%, or 1% like-for-like.

Chief executive Beth Butterwick, who is leaving Bonmarché to run womenswear retailer Karen Millen, maintained that the performance was “creditable”.

She said: “Post-Christmas, trading conditions have continued to be quite challenging, with the exception of January where we saw a higher than average demand for autumn/winter Sale stock.

“Although helpful in clearing these ranges, the continued colder weather has been unhelpful in kick-starting real demand for spring products.

“Overall, consumer confidence does not appear buoyant and, given that context, I believe that the provisional results represent a creditable performance.

“Our financial position continues to remain healthy and our final autumn/winter terminal stock position has ended better than expected, and lower than last year.

“Our expectation is that trading conditions will remain challenging, and therefore our outlook for full-year 2017 result is cautious.”

Butterwick will be replaced as chief executive of Bonmarché by former Asda executive Helen Connolly.