Leak forces HoF to announce £7.7m loss early

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The Independent Online

House of Fraser was yesterday forced to reveal its interim results early after documents were leaked to the press.

The department store chain published outline figures which showed losses before tax for the 6 months to 26 July were £7.7m, improved from a £11.7m loss this time last year.

This comes despite revealing that its like-for-like sales in the period were flat. The company had planned to report the interim performance next week. It will now present its full details of the results to shareholders today.

John Lewis, which was scheduled to report its figures yesterday, also revealed the toll the long hot summer had taken on its department stores. But success at Waitrose, its supermarket chain, has lifted profits in the past six months.

Sales in the six months to the end of July at its department stores saw only 2 per cent growth, which the company blamed on the weather, a slowing housing market and store refurbishment.

"It has not been an easy six months," Sir Stuart Hampson, chairman of John Lewis, said yesterday. "It is impossible to ignore the impact of every Saturday being sunny over two months."

Waitrose, however, has "baked in the sunshine", according to Sir Stuart. Sales of fresh food were up 11 per cent and sales across the division were up 5 per cent.

Losses at Ocado, its online delivery service for Waitrose goods, narrowed by 18 per cent to less than £8m. Turnover across the group was up 7 per cent in the six months to July 26 to £2.3bn.

Sir Stuart was confident of trading prospects in the run up to Christmas. Department store sales are up 2 per cent since the start of the second half. Waitrose stores are also having a makeover to the tune of £134m.

John Lewis also profited from a £10m lower tax bill, having resolved a dispute with the Inland Revenue. This helped lift profits by 25 per cent to £42.2m.

Meanwhile, Next reported strong first-half figures although its underlying sales growth was less impressive, reflecting the group's expansion into larger stores.

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