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Bonmarche shares plunge after dire warning on profit, dividend

Current trading conditions are significantly worse even than during the recession of 2008-09: CEO


BONMARCHE shares sank 50 per cent on Thursday after the women's fashion chain said it could report losses this year as it was faring much worse than during the 2008-09 financial crisis after thin shopping lines during Black Friday hit sales.

Bonmarche also indicated it was open to cutting or scrapping its dividend payout as it tries to save cash in the face of possible losses.

Its full-year expectations range between breaking even and a loss of £4 million (S$7 million), a reversal from a prior forecast of £5.5 million in profits.

"The current trading conditions are unprecedented in our experience and are significantly worse even than during the recession of 2008/9," chief executive Helen Connolly said in a statement.

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The company also warned that Britain's planned exit from the European Union would affect consumer demand and sales would not show any major improvement before the end of March.

"Sales during the Black Friday week were extremely poor, particularly in the retail stores, suggesting that consumer behaviour is not following last year's pattern, nor the pattern of any year we have experienced previously," the company said.

Bonmarche, which predominantly sells blouses, shirts, jeans and skirts at affordable prices to women aged over 50, said it does not expect sales to return to normal in the short term.

Spending on Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping periods during the holidays, saw a year-over-year decline in Britain, credit card data showed last month.

Bonmarche's outlook reflected a 12 per cent fall in third-quarter store like-for-like sales, while "some recovery" should begin by the 2020 financial year, it added.

Shares of the company fell to a record low of 40.2 pence at 0823 GMT. REUTERS

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