Christmas cheer misses Brown & Jackson

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The Independent Online
BROWN & JACKSON, the Poundstretcher discount stores group, introduced some gloom into the Christmas sales outturn yesterday with a profits warning that wiped a quarter off its stock market value.

But the retailers Boots and Body Shop kept alive hopes of a revival in consumer confidence, recording Christmas sales increases of 7 and 4 per cent respectively.

Brown & Jackson blamed a slow start to the Christmas season and poor sales of seasonal goods, such as toys and decorations, for a slowdown in turnover growth.

Sales in the 13 weeks to Christmas Eve showed like-for-like growth of just 2.7 per cent, well below management and City expectations. Sales growth for the year as a whole was 6.4 per cent.

The figures are a setback for the group, which is 18 months into a rescue plan initiated by new management and backed by two rights issues that have raised pounds 37m.

It said that losses for last year would be higher than market expectations of about pounds 4m. Analysts said the loss could be as high as pounds 9m to pounds 10m. The shares fell 2 1/2 p to 9 1/2 p The group lost pounds 6.6m in 1992.

Ian Gray, chief executive, said the company hoped to trade better next Christmas as Epos systems were now in place at most stores, which would allow management to make better-informed decisions when ordering in advance.

Sears said that sales were strong in all divisions apart from Adams, the children's wear business, which was marginally down. But higher buying costs and an earlier start to the sale meant profits were in line with expectations.

Body Shop said UK sales were now just 1 per cent down on a like-for-like basis compared with the 5 per cent reported at the half-year.