M&S wins in the high street war

Marks & Spencer, Britain's largest retailer, emerged yesterday as one of the winners of Christmas in the high street. Burton, dogged by too many weak brand names and mistakes made in its core menswear division, disclosed that it had been one of t he worst.

The divergence was shown as the two issued starkly contrasting trading statements demonstrating that the retail recovery remains a patchy affair from which only the most efficient operators are benefiting.

M&S, headed by Sir Richard Greenbury, turned in good figures boosted by a particularly strong Christmas. Burton, which includes the Debenhams, Top Shop and Dorothy Perkins stores, had a tougher time and scarcely managed any growth.

The two sets of figures bring an end to the flurry of trading statements issued by the big retailers since Christmas. One still to come is Etam, which is expected to issue a statement over the next few days. Some analysts are expecting a poor performanceand an indication of lower profits.

Like many other retail groups, M&S saw sluggish trading in October and November followed by a surge in the run-up to Christmas.

Like-for-like sales in the 20 weeks to 31 December rose by 6.7 per cent, with sales in December rising by a feisty 10.8 per cent on the year before. Margins remained at the previous year's levels, with minimal price inflation. This contrasted with comments made earlier this week by David Sainsbury, chairman of the J Sainsbury's supermarket group, who said the company was experiencing inflationary pressures.

Brooks Brothers, the upmarket US retailer, remains a problem for M&S. It traded poorly, although the company declined to comment further. Julie Ramshaw, retail analyst at Morgan Stanley, said the group was a victim of lacklustre apparel growth in Americaand the absence of a chief executive since last year. "They need a strong appointment there," Ms Ramshaw said.

Burton would probably love to have M&S's problems. Debenhams continues to be the star in Burton's firmament but the good work there is being dissipated by weak trading at the fashion businesses such as the Burton and Principles stores, which both lost money last year. However, analysts were encouraged by an improvement in gross margin of 3.7 per cent.

Morgan Stanley's Ms Ramshaw said: "The management is holding its resolve and Burton is not just a mark-down masochist any more. The business is committed to moving away from mark-downs. They've got to make sure that their first price is the right price."

Burton's chairman, Sir John Hoskyns, said sales in the 20 weeks to 21 January rose by just 0.1 per cent. Debenhams enjoyed sales up 4.4 per cent but sales at the multiples such as Dorothy Perkins, Top Shop and Top Man slumped by 4.2 per cent.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most