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Ted Baker shares plunge as it suffers £23m first-half loss | Business

Shares in Ted Baker crashed by more than a third after the fashion retailer dived to its first half-year loss in more than 20 years and issued another warning on its full-year performance.

The company said trading in the first half had been worse than expected and the second half had started slowly because of an unseasonably warm September.

The shares tumbled 38% to 575p after the warning, the group’s third this year.

The company said profits would be lower than last year but could not give more specific guidance, given uncertainty about Brexit and the economy. Analysts said they expected to significantly downgrade full-year profit expectations from the £50m to £60m previously pencilled in for this year, which was already lower than the £67m achieved last year.

Sales fell 2.5% to £303.8m in the six months to 10 August, as the group fell £23m into the red against a £24.5m profit last time. The company has not reported a half-year loss since listing on the stock exchange in 1997.

Ted Baker said its trading performance reflected “very difficult trading conditions” including unseasonable spring weather in North America and “unprecedented and sustained levels of promotional activity across the sector globally”.

Profit margins were hit as it claimed it had cut prices because of competition from “distressed discounting from brands that are fighting for survival”.

The business suffered from difficulties at key UK trading partners, including Debenhams and House of Fraser, both of which were disrupted by falling into administration.

But Ted Baker also admitted it had made mistakes with its spring women’s fashion ranges – including stocking too little occasion wear and too many summery dresses. Womenswear sales fell 1.5% or 5.9% excluding footwear.

The chief executive, Lindsay Page, said issues had been addressed for the autumn and there had been a strong positive reaction from shoppers to the new season designs. He blamed slower autumn sales this year on the warm September, which he said held back sales of knitwear and coats.

Analysts suggested Ted Baker’s prices had become too expensive in a highly competitive market in which rivals were discounting heavily.

“Our primary concern is that the Ted brand is losing relevance in its target market and the price point is turning customers off. Certainly, market conditions are tough but others are performing much better,” said John Stevenson at Peel Hunt.

Page said the Ted Baker brand remained strong and had been unaffected by allegations of misconduct against the former chief executive Ray Kelvin who stepped down in March.

Profits were partly affected by the £2m cost of an investigation and “legal matters” relating to the allegations against Kelvin.

The company said it had made a number of changes to its global HR policies, procedures and governance and training after the investigation, following staff allegations of “forced hugs” and ear-kissing last year.

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Despite the challenges, Page said he remained confident in Ted Baker’s ability to further develop because of the strength of the brand and its wide distribution, both online and offline.

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