Beale feels heat as summer sales slide

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The Independent Online

The department store retailer Beale issued a profits warning yesterday, blaming the summer heatwave for a slump in sales.

The department store retailer Beale issued a profits warning yesterday, blaming the summer heatwave for a slump in sales.

The company said that in the seven weeks to the end of July, like-for-like sales were 8 per cent down on the same period last year as the sunshine kept shoppers away from the high street. The period does not cover the hottest spell of weather, which fell during the first two weeks of August. Beale's shares fell by as much as 21 per cent after the company said full-year pre-tax profits would be "significantly below expectations". However, they rallied to close just 4.5p down at 80.5p.

One analyst cut his current-year profit forecasts from £2.3m to £1.2m.

Ken Owst, the company's finance director, said it had simply been too hot to shop, with men in particular deciding to stay away. "Most men don't want to go shopping in any case. But when it's hot they certainly don't want to, and they're happy to settle for a pair of shorts and a T-shirt," he said.

Beale, which operates 12 stores in Britain catering for consumers aged over 35, is the latest in a series of companies to blame the summer heat for poor sales. John Lewis, Britain's largest department store operator, has said that sales during the week ending 9 August were down 13 per cent on last year. However, the John Lewis Partnership was helped by strong sales at its Waitrose supermarkets chain which benefited from the warmer weather.

Footfall, a consultancy group which monitors retail activity, said that in the first full week of August the number of shoppers nationally was 8.5 per cent lower than last year.

Mr Owst suggested that trading at Beale might not improve as quickly as he would like as its stores do not stock a "back to school" range, which will boost other retailers in the run-up to the start of the new school year.

Although Beale has stressed that it has not been approached about a takeover, analysts have suggested that David Thomson, who already holds a 25 per cent stake in the company, may attempt to merge Beale with his existing network of Hoopers department stores.

Mr Thomson stated earlier this year that he was monitoring the situation but there was renewed speculation yesterday that he may be poised to make a bid.

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