House of Fraser reveals Christmas sales pain


Retail bellwether Marks & Spencer blamed unusually warm weather in October for a 2.8% fall in like-for-like clothing and home sales over the 13 weeks to December 30.

Meanwhile, UK like-for-like sales during the Christmas period rose by 1.9% and total sales was up by 2.1 per cent, driven by a strong grocery performance. "We want our first price to be the right price".

In clothing and homeware, M&S said its revenue grew both in-store and online over the weeks leading up to Christmas, and it held its full price stance in a very promotional market.

Tesco also took a significant hit from lost tobacco sales after the collapse of wholesaler Palmer & Harvey in November put an extra strain on its distribution network. Christmas trading was hampered by the continued squeeze on personal finances as five-year highs in inflation eroded spending power.

Steve Rowe, chief executive, said: "M&S had a mixed quarter with better Christmas trading in both businesses going some way to offset a weak clothing market in October and ongoing underperformance in our Food like-for-like sales". The stock was more than 5% cheaper Thursday at 202p amid ongoing fears about the extent that retailers have sacrificed margins to achieve top line growth.

CMC Markets analyst, Michael Hewson commented "With concerns starting to rise about an [increase] in inflation due to the recent strength in oil prices it is understandable that bond markets might be nervous if a normally large buyer of United States treasuries either stops buying them or even starts to sell large amounts".

The figures were published at the same time as a slew of retailers' trading updates, with rival supermarket Waitrose seeing like-for-like sales up by 1.5% over the six weeks to 30 December. Sales rose by 3.6% at the department store chain and by 3.1% on a like-for-like basis.

The FTSE is up 11 points this Thursday morning to fresh high's on the back of a weaker Pound, which is being held back despite yesterday's positive United Kingdom manufacturing data. All investments can fall as well as rise in value so you could get back less than you invest.