Bonmarche preparing to invest in processes and systems

Women's clothing retailer Bonmarche is set to start the planning process for business systems and infrastructure change, the company revealed today.

It comes as the retailer announced that it is close to finalising the integration of its new electronic point of sale (EPoS) upgrade with Oracle's Retail J system, which was started at the end of 2014 but has since hit delays.

In an interim results statement for its first-half trading to 26 September 2015, the business said it was disappointed with the delay to this particularly technology investment, but is confident the organisation will soon be in a position to complete the project.

“We are in ongoing discussions with Oracle, the supplier of our new EPoS system, about the continuation of the roll out of its "Retail J" system,” said today's statement.

“We hope to be in a position to move this project forward soon. Although the delays to the roll out of the EPoS system have been disappointing, most of the behind-the-scenes work is complete, and there is relatively little left to do in terms of further development.”

It is not clear what has caused the delays, but today's statement is further evidence that Bonmarche will highlight issues with vendors when it feels the time is right. Last year, the retailer said that NetSuite's acquisition of eCommerce firm Venda had delayed contract negotiations around the development of a new responsive website, although this project has now been completed and is expected to provide a platform for online growth in the future. The retailer's eCommerce sales dipped in Q2 due to SEO disruption related to the switch of provider.

In terms of the wider infrastructure investment in the pipeline, a director of business change, David Spittle, has been appointed on an interim basis to ensure both technological and commercial needs are met as the project gets under way.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Spittle has held similar roles at Jack Wills and Ann Summers in the past. A further update on the business change strategy will be announced in the company's annual report at the end of the financial year.

The retailer, which recently appointed Paul Kendrick as multichannel & marketing director, also revealed that tablets are the fastest growing source of new customers to its website, and now account for 44% of web traffic and 40% of sales – an increase from the 37% and 31% respectively the year before.

Customer behaviour of this nature is expected to continue, and Bonmarche said it has led the company's online team to develop a “tablet first" web design philosophy.

Beth Butterwick, CEO of Bonmarche, called the first-half performance “satisfactory”, adding that progress has been made in line with key strategic objectives.

“I am pleased with the improvement in store like-for-like sales, which is a testament to the value of our loyal customer base, in a market which remains challenging,” she added.

“I am also pleased with the progress being made by the new marketing and multichannel teams to turn around online sales.”

Bonmarche's first-half in-store sales grew by 2% on a like-for-like basis, while profit before tax of £5.4 million was down 15% year on year due to the ongoing infrastructure and digital investments.

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