Cards firm warns over profits

Clinton Cards has emerged as another casualty of the severe winter weather after revealing today that its profits will be significantly short of City hopes.

The retailer said like-for-like sales dropped 2% in its Clinton Cards shops in the five weeks to January 2, while its Birthdays brand saw a 1.5% fall.



The shortfall, which will impact annual results for the year to July 31, adds to the pressure on the chain after its profits slumped from £24 million in 2008 to £13 million in its last financial year.



The recent downturn in fortunes has prompted the company to unveil plans to update "the look and feel" of its Clinton stores, including a new logo, revamped shop fronts and redesigned uniforms.



Work on the overhaul is still taking place, but Clinton said today that it was on the brink of unveiling a new website encompassing the updated branding and features such as personalised card and gift services.



Chairman Don Lewin, who founded the business in 1968, said the impact of the weather on pre-Christmas sales was "very disappointing" but added that the company believed it had the right strategy to lead a turnaround.



The business has 649 Clintons stores and 161 outlets under the Birthdays brand. There are also 14 Birthdays stores in Ireland.



Andrew Wade, a retail analyst at Numis Securities, cut his forecast for Clinton's 2011 profits from £13.2 million to £7 million.



He said the latest sales figures represented an improvement from the weak Halloween season, when sales were down 3%, but estimated that the snow still shaved between 3% and 4% off the group's like-for-like sales figure.



"Costs continue to be well-managed while margins have remained relatively stable," he added.

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