Margin improvements at fashion discounter
Peacock Group reported a like-for-like sales rise of 4.4 per cent and a pre-tax profit surge of 39.1 per cent to£17.1 million.

The group, the subject of an attempted management buy-out at the moment, reported that margin improvements at the core Peacocks chain and The Fragrance Shop offset the weaker performance at value chain Bonmarché.

Peacock chairman Gavin Simonds said: 'Bonmarché has continued to fall short of our targets, with like-for-like sales improving in the second quarter only through major clearance activity that adversely affected margins.'

For the 26 weeks to October 1, like-for-like sales at Peacocks increased by 5.3 per cent, The Fragrance Shop saw a like-for-like rise of 2.7 per cent and Bonmarché's sales rose by 2.7 per cent during the same period.

Simonds said: 'Our progress was driven primarily by sales and margin improvements at Peacocks.'

Peacocks has recently been repositioned as a more fashionable brand, selling through refurbished stores. However, revitalising the Bonmarché brand has been more challenging. 'We are working in a challenging climate to align the product offer more accurately with current market trends,' said Simonds.

The group opened 10 stores during the half year and closed three, giving the business 436 stores nationwide.

Trading has been challenging for the group since the beginning of the second half. The company cited weather as a contributor to a general lack of footfall on the high street. 'This has particularly affected Bonmarché, where customers' shopping decisions are traditionally more affected by the weather than those of the younger and more fashion-oriented Peacocks shopper.