Monsoon sales blown away

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Monsoon is the latest retailer to suffer anaemic sales over the Christmas period after the woman's fashion retailer said underlying revenue slid 8 per cent over the festive period.

Peter Simon, the chairman, said trading conditions had been difficult over the past six months as the company also absorbed the cost of establishing a new distribution centre.

Monsoon is reviewing its range as a result of the poor Christmas sales and hopes a new marketing campaign featuring Elizabeth Hurley will boost its appeal. The 41-year-old actress has reportedly been paid £1m to be the face of Monsoon's "Create A Storm" campaign.

The retailer's overall sales in the first six months of its financial year rose 17 per cent to £266m on newstore openings. However, on a like-for-like basis, sales dropped 6 per cent. Pre-tax profits fell 5 per cent to £24.2m because of the cost of opening the stores. Shares, which hit a 12-month high on Wednesday, declined 1.8 per cent on the results.

Mr Simon said stock levels going into the winter sales season were much lower than at the same time last year. The company said it also hopes to benefit from the relocation of product for its Accessorize chain to the new distribution centre.

Monsoon is seeking a new executive team, with Rose Foster leaving Monsoon in May to join La Senza and the finance director, Mark McMenemy, exiting the company in March. Mr Simon said interim-management would be installed if the company did not find replacement staff in time.

During Ms Foster's five-year reign, Monsoon's annual sales have quadrupled to £500m.