Bonmarche eyes responsive web design as tablet-based sales rise

Women's fashion retailer Bonmarche is planning a new responsive website as its online sales – notably those made via tablet devices –  continue to soar.

In an interim results statement for the business's half-year to 27 September 2014, the recently-listed retailer said that visitors to its website have increased from four million to 6.3 million over the last year, with online sales now representing 7.2% of total sales – compared to 5.3% at the same point in 2013.

And in an unusual move for an interim statement Bonmarche went into some detail about its relationship with eCommerce supplier Venda, saying that the vendor's recent acquisition by NetSuite has impacted negotiations surrounding a new contract that will involve a responsive website design.

Commenting on the investment plans, today's statement said: "This will adapt the way the site looks and operates to match the device the customer is using with a view to improving conversion rates.

"These negotiations have been more protracted than we expected, due to Venda's recent acquisition by Netsuite, however we have reached verbal agreement with Venda/Netsuite, and expect work to begin soon."

Other improvements made to the retailer's multichannel proposition during the first half of the year included amendments to the web layout and an overhaul of the style of its customer emails. These moves have reportedly improved conversion from site visits.

However – and this is perhaps why Bonmarche is keen to get a deal sorted with Venda to roll out a responsive website – the company indicated that overall conversion has fallen slightly, as there has been a significant increase in the proportion of tablet devices used to interact with the site. Conversion rates from these visits are lower than from visits accessed by traditional PCs or laptops, the retailer remarked.

Total revenue for Bonmarche in the six-month period was up by 11.8% to £91.1 million, while store like-for-like sales jumped by 7.8%. Profit before tax was £6.4 million, which represented year-on-year growth of 15% on an underlying basis.

Beth Butterwick, CEO of Bonmarche, commented: "We are pleased with Bonmarche's first-half performance and our progress against our strategic objectives.

"Towards the end of Q2, trading conditions became more difficult due to the unseasonably warm weather. These conditions have continued into the second half; however, on the basis that the weather returns to its normal seasonal pattern, the board expects the current year's performance to be in line with its original expectations."

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