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Major retailers report on Christmas trading

Published: 12 January 2017 - Jenny Wonnacott

M&S, Tesco, John Lewis and Debenhams were among some of the country's biggest retailers reporting an upturn in sales over the Christmas period – but for some the increase was more marginal than exceptional.

Though Tesco reported a 1.5% underlying sales growth over its third quarter, its Christmas sales growth was just 0.3%. The supermarket said this was because it did not repeat its “Boost” Clubcard promotion. Said ceo Dave Lewis, “We are very encouraged by the sustained strong progress that we are making across the Group. In the UK, we saw our eighth consecutive quarter of volume growth and delivered a third successful Christmas.

"Our fresh food ranges proved particularly popular, outperforming the market with great quality, innovative new products and even more affordable prices. Internationally, we have continued to focus on improving our offer for customers in challenging market conditions."

 

Clothing & Home, which has been described as a “thorn in the side” of high street stalwart Marks and Spencer for years, out-performed the favoured food department at the retailer this Christmas. Underlying sales in clothing and home rose 2.3% in the 13 weeks to December 31, 3.1% when including sales from opening of new branches.

M&S said that 1.5% of this was down to the changing of the reporting period, adding five extra sales days this year. The growth was also put down to M&S' decision to take part in Black Friday deals this year. Ceo Steve Rowe said, “In Clothing & Home, better ranges, better availability and better prices helped to improve our performance in a difficult marketplace. We also continued to substantially reduce discounting, including over Black Friday."

Sales at John Lewis, meanwhile, were predictably strong over Christmas. Group sales (including Waitrose) were up 4.9% in the 6 weeks to December 31. Chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield said, “We traded strongly over Christmas with sales up nearly 5% and both Waitrose and John Lewis grew market share. Sales were particularly strong in the areas that have been the focus for product innovation this year, such as our Waitrose 1 premium range and John Lewis own-brand fashion.

"Although we expect to report profits up on last year, trading profit is under pressure. This reflects the greater changes taking place across the retail sector. We expect those to quicken, especially in the next 12 months as the effects of weaker Sterling feed through."

Finally, Debenhams also saw a strong performance, with sales up 3.5% in the 18 weeks to January 7, with a 3.7% rise in the number of transactions. Sales were up 5% in the 7 weeks to January 7. Ceo Sergio Bucher said, “I'm pleased with the performance we have achieved in the key trading weeks of Black Friday and over the Christmas peak, given the challenges in the broader environment and the strong performance last year."

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