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UK retailers report sales growth in Christmas trading updates

‘Super Thursday’ has arrived, with a multitude of UK retailers announcing their sales figures for the key Christmas period.

Marks and Spencer reported its first like-for-like improvement in clothing and home sales since April 2015, with a 2.3% increase in the last three months of 2016 compared with the same period a year earlier. Its total sales were up 1.3% on a like-for-like basis, with a 0.6% rise in food sales.

M&S chief executive Steve Rowe said that its food business continues to grow market share and he attributed the improved performance in clothing and home to “better ranges, better availability and better prices” as well as less discounting, including over Black Friday.

Another big chain, Debenhams, said that its Christmas trading was good, with like-for-like sales up 5.0%. Sales were boosted by non-clothing lines such as beauty and gifts.

Online fashion retailer Asos had “record sales over cyber weekend and the Christmas trading period” according to its chief executive Nick Beighton. The company saw a 36% increase in sales for the four months to 31 December 2016, with UK sales up 18% and international sales growing more than 50%.

Primark’s owner Associated British Foods (ABF) said that the fashion chain’s like-for-like sales for the quarter were good and market share increased. Overall, Primark’s UK sales were up 11% at constant currency. ABF’s other businesses, which include AB Sugar and food and drink brands such as Twinings, Ovaltine and Ryvita, also had a strong quarter. Group revenue from continuing operations for the 16 weeks to 7 January 2017 was up 10% compared with the same period last year at constant currency.

Tesco was also among the big name retailers announcing trading figures on Super Thursday. Focusing on the six weeks ended 7 January 2017, the grocery chain said that it saw UK like-for-like sales growth of 0.7% and food like-for-like sales up 1.3%, with “significant market outperformance in fresh food”.

Sales took a 0.8% hit from not repeating the Clubcard ‘Boost’ promotion but the company recorded strong performance in clothing and toys, with sales up 4.3% and 8.5% respectively.

Group like-for-like sales for the festive period grew 0.3%.

Tesco also said that it had been working with suppliers to “minimise the impact on our customers of the inflationary pressures that have started to emerge in the market”.