Boots, Body Shop and Clinton Cards missed Christmas boom

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The Independent Online

Not all retailers have enjoyed a strong Christmas despite the continued strength of consumer spending and yesterday Boots, Body Shop and Clinton Cards all announced fairly downbeat trading statements for the festive season.

Boots, which is reinventing itself as a more upmarket healthcare specialist, reported modest sales growth over Christmas. The performance prompted Steve Russell, chief executive, to say: "Overall the result is not at a level with which we can be satisfied."

In the three months to 31 December the main Boots the Chemists chain reported like- for-like sales growth of 2.2 per cent on the same period last year. This is one of the lowest increases reported by a major retailer so far. Sales in the key health and beauty areas were up 4.4 per cent. The best performances came from cosmetics (up 22 per cent), designer healthcare (up 18 per cent) and health and beauty gift sets (up by more than 30 per cent).

However there were disappointments in baby products, toiletries, film and cameras. Photography suffered as shoppers increasingly bought digital cameras at computer stores.

Elsewhere in the group, sales at its Well Being services rose 5.9 per cent on a like-for-like basis. Boots shares rose 15p to 616p.

Body Shop International also revealed weak trading as it confirmed October's announcement it is in discussions that could lead to a takeover. French bank Paribas and American venture capital group Texas Pacific have been linked with a £250m deal. Yesterday Body Shop said "these discussions are continuing".

The ethical toiletries retailer said underlying sales in the 10 weeks to 5 January were flat on last year. This included sales declines in the Americas and Europe. The UK business has recovered with like-for-like sales up 4 per cent.

Clinton Cards shares fell 10p 143.5p as it reported a slowdown in sales growth. Like-for-like sales in the five weeks to 30 December rose by 1.5 per cent compared with 6 per cent growth 12 months earlier. Clinton Lewin, managing director, blamed declining gift sales for part of the fall. The company's shares fell 10p to 143.5p.

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