Bonmarché has reported plunging sales during the golden quarter, with the festive period dragging down its half-year performance.

The specialist retailer is the latest in a series of fashion businesses to reveal dismal Christmas trading.

Like-for-likes dropped 2.8% in the 39 weeks to December 30 and were further hindered by terrible Christmas trading. They dropped 9.7% over the festive quarter and 10.4% in the final five weeks.

Online sales provided a bright spot, rising 35.5% over the 39 weeks, 28.5% over the golden quarter and spiking 39.2% over the five weeks.

Bonmarché said it had anticipated the market conditions would remain difficult and so adjusted stock buying plans and managed to reduce discounting compared to last year. Consequently, its gross margin improved slightly.

Boss Helen Connolly said: “There remains uncertainty as to how trading conditions will evolve as we enter our final quarter.

“We do not anticipate material changes in the underlying market conditions, and in this short-term outlook, the weather represents the most significant uncertainty due to its effect on consumer shopping behaviour, with the risks equally weighted on the up and downsides.

“At the end of the third quarter, the board’s view of the likely outcome for the full year remains in line with previous expectations.”

She added that Bonmarché had a number of self-help plans in progress or planned for its next full-year and expected to deliver profitable like-for-likes growth as a result.