Bonmarché first-half profits and sales surged as it kept focused on its core customers despite being hit by warm autumn weather.

Bonmarché reported solid half-year profits but the City delivered a muted response as the value retailer warned that, like most other clothing retailers, the warm autumn weather meant that shoppers shunned its coats and jumpers.

The warm weather has taken its toll on most fashion retailers. But Bonmarché – which has continued to make solid progress since its IPO – is a little different.

While the weather hit its second quarter, and Bonmarché said this has continued into its second half, its outperformance in the first half has meant it has left its forecasts unchanged and – as broker Investec points out – this is a rare result for a clothing retailer.

Bonmarché knows what it is, and is clear on its target audience.

Boss Beth Butterwick told Retail Week that the business hasn’t lost sight of the fact that it’s a value retailer, and has aggressively been pursuing its “first price, right price” strategy.

Such a strategy is vital in this era of Sales, discounts and one-off events such as last week’s Black Friday frenzy. An unprecedented number of fashion retailers took part in Black Friday last week for the first time.

Panic discounts

The US imported event is traditionally dominated by electricals retailers but this year fashion played a significant part.

Some observers saw this development as panic on the part of the fashion sector to sell off the stock that hasn’t sold in the warm autumn.

Panic or not, fashion retailers have as much right as any to wade into Black Friday if it’s here to stay, but they must not forget who they are. Massive discounts may shift stock but it’s hard to come back from.

Bonmarché got involved in Black Friday with a 25% off online promotion.

It also took part in Cyber Monday by offering free P&P. This type of measured promotion gives customers a bargain without being too difficult to go back to full price from.

Butterwick, like all fashion retailers, hopes the weather normalises soon. And in the meantime Bonmarché will do well by continuing to do what it does best – focus on its customer, and know who it is.

  • Jennifer Creevy, deputy editor, Retail Week