Philip Bowman, the company's new chairman, also warned that it could be five years before shareholders achieve a reasonable return on their investment.
The gloomy prognosis was delivered to shareholders at a downbeat annual meeting in London yesterday. Mr Bowman also gave an update on current trading showing that sales had fallen by 1 per cent in the six months to August.
The company has stocks equivalent to 23 weeks of sales. The effect of mark-downs on these ranges will affect the group's first-half results, the chairman said.