High street names make heavy weather of Christmas trading

Matalan, the discount retailer, has reported sluggish sales over Christmas and conceded that it will struggle to match its annual target of underlying sales growth of 4 per cent.

Like-for-like sales in the five weeks to 11 January were up by just 1 per cent on the same period last year, compared with analyst hopes of up to 4 per cent. However, gross margins were ahead of last year by a full percentage point. As a result the group is expected to meet analyst profit forecasts.

Paul Mason, chief executive, pointed to total sales growth of 15.6 per cent as an indication that Matalan was still delivering strong sales gains. "We were up against strong sales growth last year when there was a lot of discounting," he said. "In the round I'm pleased with the way we've exited Christmas."

Mr Mason said Matalan would cut prices on key lines to compete with a fresh price assault by Asda's George label.

The shares closed 4.5p lower at 202p.

SHARES IN Woolworths rallied 6 per cent yesterday as investors breathed a sigh of relief after the high street retailer turned in a sound performance over the key Christmas period. Furthermore, Woolworths also predicted a "significant" improvement in profitability for the year, putting its performance "well in line with market expectations". In the six weeks to 11 January, the chain posted a 1.5 per cent jump in like-for-like sales. There had been speculation that Woolworths was left with excess stock over Christmas in areas such as toys and confectionery.

"Despite a tougher retail environment, Christmas trading has been satisfactory and in line with the group's plans," it said. Woolworths' shares closed up 2p at 34.25p.

In the key Christmas period, like-for-like sales at the group's out-of-town Big W stores jumped 6 per cent while sales at its MVC music retail chain rose 6.2 per cent. The chief executive, Trevor Bish-Jones, said: "History says that in a time of recession, Woolworths as a value retailer trades well. We're in good shape to handle a consumer downturn."

THE TOY retailer Hamleys, best known for its flagship store in London's Regent Street, reported strong Christmas trading fuelled by demand for both traditional toys and newer items including a range of James Bond cars and Spider-Man goods.

In the five weeks to 28 December, like-for-like sales under the Hamleys brand rose 6.1 per cent, including a 3.7 per cent jump at the Regent Street store.

Simon Burke, chairman, said the figures showed "the growing strength and resilience" of Hamleys. In the second half, Hamleys said like-for-like sales had grown 11.3 per cent including an 8.3 per cent rise at the Regent Street store.

THE JOHN David Group, which operates the JD Sports and First Sport chains, warned profits for the year would be below expectations after tough Christmas trading, sending its shares crashing 21 per cent.

In the six weeks to 11 January, the JD Sports division produced a like-for-like sales decline of 1.36 per cent while First Sport sales fell 2.03 per cent. Pre-Christmas trading was slower than expected, the group said, but noted that there had been "improved" sales in the post-Christmas sales.

Nevertheless, the gross profit margin over the key Christmas period was at a "lower level than would normally be anticipated", it said, meaning profits for the year to 31 January would be below forecasts. The stock fell 50.5p to close at 191p.

THE CLOTHING retailer Austin Reed warned it would miss profit expectations for the year thanks to "slow sales" over the key Christmas period.

In the five weeks to 11 January, Austin Reed's like-for-like sales fell 2.3 per cent while same store sales in the 22 weeks to 11 January slumped 3.5 per cent.

While it said stock levels remained "under control" and margins were "in line", it warned pre-tax profits for the year to 25 January would be "moderately" below expectations thanks to a tough Christmas. The alert sent shares down 0.5p to finish at 105p.

Suggested Topics
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: Sales Assistant / Buyer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...

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...

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