Total pre-tax profits for the group tumbled from£333,000 to just£85,000, prompting Actif Group chairman David Brock to label Elle's performance for the year as unacceptable.
The group said that the retail business was affected by poor performance from Elle's high summer ranges, especially within the Tops category with accounts for approximately 50 per cent of its sales mix. Markdowns and slow moving stock contributed to a dip in Elle's gross margins from 59 per cent in 2003 to 58 per cent this year.
Brock said: 'Weak trading in Elle stores in the late spring and early summer acted as a severe profit depressant on the group's performance overall. The necessary actions have been taken to address the evident product weaknesses in our Elle retail collections that contributed to the poor sales performance.'