Outlook The Oxford English Dictionary describes "challenging" as "testing one's abilities" or "demanding". Companies have a rather broader range of definitions.
For retailers at the top of the tree it means "things look tough but, we're doing all right, we're just sensibly managing expectations here". There's a second group that are struggling a bit more for whom it means "don't expect much in the way of dividends this year".
And then there's a third group for whom things are getting quite nasty. That includes French Connection, the fashion retailer, which irritated quite a lot of people with its cheeky FCUK slogan that used to be plastered across its apparel but is rather less in evidence these days.
Yesterday saw the second profit warning in six months prompted by a 10 per cent fall in sales across the UK and Europe. Worryingly its cash reserves fell by 39 per cent. When French Connection talks about challenging, just add an "ed" on to the end of that naughty slogan.
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