James Moore: Will M&S be retail's first real horror story?

Outlook Christmas trading was "the toughest in 40 years", according to Debenhams' chief executive, Michael Sharp.

Debs had to discount, sacrificing margin just to keep shoppers interested, and the shares came under pressure as a result.

Because of this, profit expectations might have to be downgraded, but only by a bit. Sales were actually pretty creditable.

In fact, so far, the post-Christmas retail reporting season has yet to throw up a real horror, although Morrisons came close. But with overall sales rising at a lower rate than inflation, that surely can't continue.

Marks & Spencer, which has been wobbling, is up on Thursday. Its statement promises to make fascinating reading.