The Peacock Group will sacrifice EBITDA for margin growth, after heavy discounting and a disappointing performance from its Bonmarché chain resulted in a fall in profit last year.

In figures filed at Companies House for the year to March 2008, group EBITDA dropped to£73.6m, from£76m in the previous year.

Peacock Group chief executive Richard Kirk told Retail Week that he was “slightly disappointed” by the year, which suffered from the credit crunch, a poor summer and lack of fashion trends. Margins were eroded as the group made hefty markdowns to shift stock.

Group like-for-like sales fell 1.6 per cent on sales of£662.1m, up from£652.6m the year before.

In a reversal of the previous year’s performance, mature womenswear retailer Bonmarché drove the profit decline, despite a successful repositioning of the clothing brand.

Total sales grew 0.1 per cent to£196.1m, but slumped 1.6 per cent on a like-for-like basis.

At Peacocks, the group’s young-fashion brand, total sales rose 6.2 per cent to£465.9m on like-for-likes down 1.7 per cent.

However, since the year-end the brand has outperformed many of its rivals, notching up a 7 per cent like-for-like increase on 16 per cent like-for-like margin growth over the past five weeks, according to Kirk.

Like-for-like sales are up double digits in the group’s overseas markets, added Kirk. He plans to expand aggressively in the Middle East and to extend Peacocks’ online reach.

The group has not budgeted for like-for-like growth in its current year to March 2009 but plans to increase Peacocks’ EBITDA.

The group’s backers, Och Ziff and Perry Capital, injected£20m into the business last year for expansion.