Christmas cheer fails to reach all retailers

Kingfisher and Allders, the department store operator, became the latest retailers to report an upbeat message on Christmas trading yesterday. However, poor figures from Laura Ashley, where sales growth was modest, and Body Shop, where sales were down on last year, showed that the upturn in consumer spending has not been enjoyed across the high street.

With more than a dozen retailers having issued their Christmas trading statements, it seems clear that high street trading has been healthy rather than a bonanza.

Clive Vaughan of Verdict Research said: "If there is a trend out there it is that the retailers who are appealing to the upper ends of their markets are doing well." He noted that in jewellery, Ernest Jones, Goldsmiths and Asprey were doing well. But at the lower end of the market, sales growth at Argos and H Samuel had been less impressive.

"To some effect we are still seeing the Tessa effect," Mr Vaughan said. "That benefited mainly older, more affluent people and so we are seeing good sales of upmarket cars, like Jaguars, of longer-haul holidays, and of top end furniture and home computers.

"There are a lot of people out there who are getting bonuses this year who didn't receive them last time. If there is a message here it is that the richer consumers seem to be getting richer. But for the mass of the population things are growing quite slowly."

It is a view supported by Nick Bubb, retail analyst at MeesPierson. "Consumers are still a bit scarred by the recession and the effect that had on confidence."

Of yesterday's trading statements, Kingfisher's was the most prominent with good sales increases encouraging analysts to upgrade their profits forecasts to around pounds 280m for the current year.

Kingfisher's group sales in the nine weeks to 4 January increased by 7.8 per cent on a like-for-like basis compared with last year.

Star performers were B&Q and Comet, where sales grew by 14 per cent. Woolworths also performed strongly with an 8 per cent sales lift in which toys, Christmas products and home essentials did well. Kingfisher chief executive Sir Geoff Mulcahy said Woolworths benefited from "an environment where customers were concentrating on value for money".

At Allders, like-for-like sales improved by 11.6 per cent in the 15 weeks to 11 January, one of the most impressive sales gains reported so far this year. The department store group also said the latest three weeks of its winter sale had gone well with sales up 16 per cent on last year.

The news was more mixed at Laura Ashley, the fashion and furniture retailer. It is shaking up the management at its European division after a steep decline in sales there. Though group sale rose by 3 per cent in the six weeks to 24 November, sales in Europe fell by 8 per cent.

Andrew Stevenson, who was head of retail operations in the UK and Europe, is leaving by mutual agreement. The role will now be split in two. Laura Ashley blamed difficult markets but also said its product range had not been right. Like-for-like sales in the UK were 10 per cent higher but US sales were flat.

Body Shop reported the worst retail trading statement of the day with a 2 per cent slump in like-for-like sales in the 10 weeks to 4 January. Comparable sales were lower in the UK, Europe and the US. Chairman Gordon Roddick admitted the performance had been mixed but added that the US business was improving.

Upbeat trading statements are expected later this week from Blacks Leisure and JD Sports.

Christmas trading on the high street

The winners

sales incr on last yr (%)*

John Lewis (exluding Waitrose) 12.3

JJB Sports 12

Allders 11.6

Goldsmiths 9.8

Next 9

Signet (H Samuel, Ernest Jones) 8.5

Littlewoods 8.2

Dixons (incl Currys, PC World, The Link) 8

Kingfisher (Woolworths, B&Q, Comet, Superdrug) 7.8

Boots (incl Halfords, Do It All, Fads) 6

The losers

sales changes on last yr (%)*

Body Shop -2

Sears (Selfridges, British Shoe, Wallis, Adams) -0.5

Laura Ashley +3

Argos +4**

*like-for-like sales increases, stripping out new store openings

**half the rate of City expectations

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Guru Careers: Management Accountant

£27 - 35k + Bonus + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Management Accountant is needed ...

Guru Careers: Project Manager / Business Analyst

£40-50k + Benefits.: Guru Careers: A Project Manager / Business Analyst is nee...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'