Christmas lift for Burton

Burton became the latest high street retailer to report an encouraging though unspectacular Christmas yesterday. While womenswear performed well in both Debenhams and the multiples such as Evans and Dorothy Perkins, sales of menswear were not as good.

Burton's announcement leaves only Marks & Spencer of the big retailers yet to report its Christmas trading statement. Of the supermarket groups Sainsbury will issue a trading update today.

Burton, which has been rejuvenated under chief executive John Hoerner, said group sales in the 20 weeks to 18 January were 11.1 per cent ahead of the same period last year. Debenhams and the chain stores contributed 7.3 per cent of the growth. The remainder came from Burton's recent mail order acquisitions, Innovations and Racing Green.

Burton also reported that its margin increased by a full percentage point over the year.

Debenhams once again proved itself to be the group's star performer. It increased sales by 9 per cent with the two new stores in Dublin and Lincoln performing well.

Two more stores will open in the Leeds White Rose Centre and at Barrow in Furness in the spring.

Speaking to shareholders at the group's annual meeting yesterday, Burton chairman Sir John Hoskyns said the group was starting to integrate Innovations and Racing Green, both acquired last year.

Though the trading statement was in line with expectations, Burton shares closed 6.75p lower at 155p, largely on profit-taking.