The trading troubles of French Connection deepened today after the fashion chain revealed a 17% fall in same-store sales in the UK.
Shares in the company, which has several Irish stores, fell 4% as the group said it missed out on the latest fashion trends by concentrating on popular styles of previous seasons.
French Connection described the latest trading performance – covering the past five weeks – as “very disappointing” as it followed a 12% decline in like-for-like sales in the year to January 31.
Chairman Stephen Marks said conditions on the UK high street have been difficult, but the positive response of shoppers to recent additions to its ranges offered hope that the company was starting to turn the corner.
Mr Marks said: “I can see signs of improvement and beginnings of a recovery and, while it is still early days, we go forward feeling positive about the changes that are being made.”
Measures to resuscitate sales have included a shake-up of the buying teams, an overhaul of how clothes are presented in stores and new ranges to strengthen its summer offering.
Spending on advertising in the UK has also been increased to beef up the nationwide billboard and magazine campaigns taking place this month and in April, which will continue to feature the “fcuk” logo that has been criticised by some analysts.
Annual profits of £33m (€47.8m) were in line with expectations after the group warned last year that it would not be able to match its haul of £38.7m (€56m) in 2003.
The group was forced to slash prices of its clothing ranges to shift excess stock, contributing not only to the profits fall but also a 1% decline in turnover.
Although the response to the Winter 2005 ranges have been good, French Connection said its customers were reluctant to commit themselves because of the poor performance of last year’s items, leaving order books for that season slightly behind last year.