New Look and JD Sports add to high street festive cheer

The clothing and footwear chains New Look and JD Sports Fashion both maintained their powerful sales over the festive trading period. Both retailers have been two of the sector's best-performers over recent years and their strong performance fuelled the growing belief that the high street enjoyed a robust Christmas.

The fashion chain New Look, which has 603 stores in the UK and is considering a flotation this year, delivered bumper underlying sales up by 5.9 for the 14 weeks to 2 January, partly driven by soaring sales of boots and winter apparel. Carl McPhail, the chief executive of New Look, said: "We think we are in the sweet spot in the value sector that is growing."

JD Sports also came in with strong like-for-like sales – on stores open at least one year – which jumped by 6.6 per cent for the five weeks to 2 January. Peter Cowgill, its executive chairman, said: "We are pleased because it is four or five years of continued growth." The group operates the JD and Size sports fascias, as well as the Bank and Scotts fashion shops that delivered the strongest sales.

New Look, which has a total of 1,012 stores including a presence in 13 countries outside the UK, is thought to be mulling either an initial public offering or a sale. Mr McPhail said: "We clearly are considering options for the business and genuinely no decision has been made." The fashion retailer was taken private in 2004 by private equity firms Permira and Apax in a £699m deal and it is thought that the strong Christmas trading will see them try to cash in on their investment.

Mr McPhail said it sold 1.9 million cardigans, 1.5 million leggings and 1.1 million boots over the autumn and winter. New Look – whose core customer is fashion-conscious women aged between 16 and 45 years old – competes against swaths of fashion retailers, including Topshop and Primark.

But Mr McPhail said: "We are absolutely not the cheapest – we are about great fashion and great value and constant newness. We sell biker jackets in our core range at £25 and a leather one in our limited range costs £150." Over the past two years, New Look has grown to become Britain's second-largest retailer of womenswear, including shoes and accessories, according to TNS Worldpanel.

Mr Cowgill said menswear textile and footwear were the star performers at JD Sports, but also cited the performance of brands from Nike to its labels Carbrini and McKenzie. "People in the know – who tend to buy trainers six to eight times a year – shop at JD because they know they are buying the later and greater models that look cool on the street," he claimed. JD Sports targets teenagers through to customers in their mid-twenties.

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