Clinton Cards and Ted Baker add to retailers' festive cheer

Clinton Cards and Ted Baker both issued buoyant trading updates yesterday, rounding off an upbeat week of festive reporting on the high street.

Their strong performances suggest that Christmas cheer permeated throughout the retail sector during the festive season following a dreadful end to 2008, although many stores remain cautious about the year ahead.

Clinton Cards, the UK's biggest greeting cards retailer, has 676 Clinton and 184 Birthdays stores. Its underlying sales for the five weeks to 3 January rose by 3.6 per cent, boosted by a "resolution of supply chain issues that continued to impact until late autumn".

Clinton said it had paid off the final £12m instalment of its net debt ahead of schedule yesterday. The chairman, Don Lewin, added: "We have performed well during the crucial Christmas period despite the adverse weather affecting many of our stores.

"We expect 2010 to be another tough year but we believe we are well placed to meet the challenges."

The busy festive trading period helped Clinton Cards to post like-for-like sales for the 22 weeks to 3 January that were 3.5 per cent higher than the same period a year ago. It said its performance for the first few days of 2010 had been in line with expectations.

The retail and wholesale fashion brand Ted Baker was also celebrating as it reported a 19.1 per cent jump in retail sales for the period from 1 November to 24 December, driven by a UK performance that beat expectations and which has continued in 2010.

The group, which has 34 stores, eight outlet shops and concessions in House of Fraser, John Lewis, Harrods and Selfridges, attributed the sales increase to its "innovative product design", but said menswear had performed better than womenswear.

Ray Kelvin, the founder and chief executive of Ted Baker, said: "People are fed up with doom and gloom."

The group said the performance of its overseas operations was improving but trading conditions remained mixed. Ted Baker has 10 shops in the US, and Mr Kelvin said: "Things are getting better in America and that will soon filter down to customers."

He added that Ted Baker's gross margins had risen by 2.5 per cent since this time last year.

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