Value retailers toast festive trade

Brighthouse, Poundland and Peacocks continue sales momentum over Christmas
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The Independent Online

Three of the biggest players in the value sector have delivered sparkling Christmas results, proving the festive feel-good factor has spread across most of the retail industry. The rent-to-own specialist Brighthouse, the single-price retailer Poundland and the value fashion chain Peacocks posted powerful trading updates over the weekend, continuing the momentum gained before and during the recession.

Most high-street retailers have been boosted by consumers feeling more confident about their personal finances, driven in part by their worst fears over the economy not being realised, as well as being up against weaker sales last year. But most store groups remain cautious over their prospects in 2010, partly due to uncertainty over how the next government will tackle the massive £178bn public deficit.

Brighthouse, which has 190 stores, delivered a 9 per cent jump in underlying sales – which strip out the impact of new stores – for the 13 weeks to Christmas Eve, boosted by soaring sales of sofas, washing machines and consumer electronics.

Leo McKee, the chief executive of the private equity-backed retailer, said: "Both customer footfall and trading in the run-up to Christmas have been strong and we have delivered improved revenue and customer numbers. Consumer electricals have been popular and we have also seen significant demand for furniture and domestic appliances." In particular, sales of the Snuggle sofa, manufactured by Lebus, had "taken off", he said.

Brighthouse's total sales soared by 21 per cent to £50.5m over the quarter, helped by new store openings. Mr McKee said: "I talked to about 500 customers in the run-up to Christmas and there was certainly a determination to enjoy Christmas."

Poundland, which has 254 stores, also celebrated after reporting like-for-like sales – on shops open more than one year – up by 4.4 per cent for the five weeks to 3 January. Jim McCarthy, the chief executive of Poundland, said: "We were perfectly positioned to benefit from the flight to value and continued pressure on people's purses." Total sales at Poundland, which has been owned by private equity firm Advent International since 2002, leapt by 34.8 per cent, lifted by new stores.

Poundland said it sold 3 million crackers, 1.1 million single Christmas cards and more than 2,237 miles of tinsel. Meanwhile, Peacocks, the 546-store value fashion chain, delivered barnstorming underlying sales up by 17 per cent in December and early January.

Chief executive Richard Kirk said: "Peacocks has enjoyed a cracking Christmas as customers decided they were going to celebrate after a year of doom and gloom."

For the eight weeks to 2 January, Peacocks fashioned total sales up 13 per cent, helped by new stores, and higher by 8 per cent on a like-for-like basis.

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