Parkdean falls on weak school holiday sales

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The Independent Online

Parkdean Holidayswarned yesterday its profits for the year ending in October will miss expectations after a poor school holiday period.

Shares in the campingand caravan park owner fell 5 per cent on the news, worsened by fears that forward bookings for the autumn period are also lagging behind last year's performance. "This year's market conditions in the UK holiday-park sector have been more challenging than any previously experienced," the company said. "This has continued throughout the peak season culminating in below normal occupancy during the main school holidays. In addition, holidays for late September and October ... are booking marginally slower than last year." Its shares closed 12.5p down at 219.5p.

Analysts cut their forecasts for Parkdean by as much as 8 per cent as the company reported a drop in like-for-like revenues of 2.3 per cent to 5 September. Although on-site retail sales across the group were up 2.1 per cent despite fewer visitors, sales at its new sites have been disappointing.

The company said on-site sales at its newly acquired parks were "below expectations" as a result of lower occupancy levels. Paul Leyland, of Seymour Pierce, said: "If the consumer slowdown continues in to 2006, occupancy will be impacted."

The hardest hit area throughout the school holidays was Cornwall, where the company plans to reduce its capacity. It may also have to slash prices to drive up occupancy rates and compete with its cheaper rivals. Margins were down 1.2 per cent over the year.

Earlier this year, Parkdeansaid it would face a difficult summer after it delayed the publication of its 2005 brochure to incorporate five newly acquired parks. Yesterday the company said it will publish its 2006 brochure six weeks earlier than last year to try to recoup lost ground.