Switzerland's biggest fashion retailer Charles Voegele Holding AG is blaming unseasonally mild weather and rapid expansion for denting its full-year profits.

The impact of the weather depressed sales of the winter collection and created surplus stocks, forcing the company to issue a profit warning in October. A statement issued today by the group was in line with its revised outlook, which predicts full-year sales up by 16-18 per cent and not by the 20 per cent originally forecast. .

Its 2001 net sales rose 15.3 per cent to 1.631 billion Swiss francs ($981.9 million, €1.08 billion). It had a 2000 net profit of 81.2 million francs and an operating profit of 152.3 million. 

The company also said it expected its net income from operating activities to be clearly below that of 2000 and added it was considering write-downs on its balance sheet.

Investors, though, have been sceptical about the weather issue and noted some top management changes have been stepped up as Voegele was absorbing a rapid foreign acquisition drive. The retail group is also active in Germany, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands.

"Our recent fast expansion is going to put pressure on the company's earnings, and our 2001 earnings before interest and taxes...will be below the 2000 figure," confirmed Charles Voegele's new chief executive, Daniel Reinhard.