French Connection lesbian kiss ad fails to halt sales slump

LONDON - French Connection's controversial advertising campaign featuring two women kung fu fighting and kissing has failed to halt a decline in sales.

The high street clothing giant has issued its third profits warning in the last 18 months, with like-for-like sales across UK and Europe falling by 2% since the end of January.

The firm had hoped the latest TV campaign for its spring range, under the strapline "fashion versus style" and made by Beattie McGuinness Bungay, would reinvigorate the brand, which had been hit by a 53% fall in pre-tax profits to £15.7m during the previous 12 months.

But rather than attracting customers, all the campaign appears to have gained was criticism from TV viewers, around 127 of whom complained to the Advertising Standards Authority.

Main viewer concerns were over the level of violence in creative, which also included a head-butting scene as well as the lesbian kiss. Despite the uproar, the Advertising Standards Authority decided against investigating the complaints.

Stephen Marks, French Connection chairman and chief executive, said: "There is little indication at the moment that the market conditions or our trading performance will change.

"While the board continues to focus on driving improvements in each of our businesses, and we are only a short way into the year, we are materially reducing our expectations for the full-year results."

Shares in French Connection fell following the warning, trading at 210p, a drop of 4.55%, this morning.

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