UK value women's wear retailer Bonmarché has blamed poor weather and lack of demand for its summer fashions for an 8.1% drop in first quarter like-for-like sales at its stores.

In a trading update today (28 July), the retailer said sales for the quarter to 25 June fell 3.6%. Online sales slipped 2.7%, compared with an 11.4% jump in the first quarter last year.

Outgoing CEO Beth Butterwick, who is handing over the reins to Helen Connolly next month, described the quarter as "challenging" with "a lack of strong demand across our high summer clothing categories."

She added: "We continue to focus on creating a more modern experience for our customers through the execution of our five strategic pillars for growth: brand development and customer acquisition, product development, channels to market, systems and processes, and people and culture."

However, the retailer said its expectations for the full year remain unchanged, "on the assumption that trading conditions normalise through the autumn season."

Last month Bonmarché reported a 22.6% drop in full-year pre-tax profits to GBP9.6m (US$13.9m).

Connolly was appointed as CEO in March, and is currently senior buying director for George at Asda.

Nivindya Sharma, analyst at Verdict Retail, described Bonmarché's first quarter results as "dismal," even though they were up against relatively weak comparatives. Online performance especially disappointing, given the level of investment in the channel over the last year, she said.

"The next few quarters will be critical for the retailer, and Brexit has not made Bonmarché's job any easier as the ensuing uncertainty and volatile economic conditions have had an impact on overall consumer confidence," Sharma added. 

"However, there is a clear five-pillar strategy in place for Bonmarché and a relentless focus on brand and product development, alongside customer acquisition initiatives should allow the retailer to gather some lost ground over the rest of the year."