How Was It For You? Retailers’ Christmas Results

How Was It For You? Retailers’ Christmas Results

Jeannie, Jeannie, Jeannie BLOG Date


Retailing is one of the most interesting industries in the world. You never know where it is going or what will happen within it. Christmas trading results always make good reading. Most have been announced this week and here is a resume.

John Lewis and Tesco enjoy healthy festive takings, there’s mixed results at M&S while Debenhams and Mothercare issue profit warnings

The crucial Christmas trading season can be make or break for retailers. As the festive season got under way, companies faced intense competition to win sales as cash-strapped consumers constrained by falling real pay sought out the best deals. It was tough for the whole retail market but, with most of the major retailers having now reported, more winners have emerged than losers.



The UK’s biggest supermarket chain is one of the winners even though its sales performance fell short of some City expectations. It reported like-for-like sales growth of 1.9% for its UK stores, a performance it said was thanks to the strength of its food business which saw underlying growth of 3.4%.

Dave Lewis, Tesco’s chief executive, was upbeat, saying Tesco is “firmly on track to deliver our medium-term ambitions.”

John Lewis

Underlying sales at John Lewis department stores rose 3.1% over the six weeks to 30 December. Its sister chain Waitrose enjoyed growth of 1.5% on a like-for-like basis.

Chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield said the group had traded well but the widespread discounting in the market had hurt profits as its “never knowingly undersold” pledge forced it to match rivals prices.


The UK’s second-largest supermarket benefited from its merger with Argos, despite experiencing “challenging conditions”. The company upgraded profit expectations by about 5%, saying it had been able to make cost savings from its tie-up with the retail chain earlier than expected.

Sales at established stores rose by 1.1% in the 15 weeks to 6 January, in line with consensus. The company said Argos had gained market share, despite a 1.4% fall in sales almost entirely due to the closure of dozens of outlets of the DIY chain Homebase, as a result of the change in ownership. Sainsbury’s increased grocery sales by 2.3%, partly as a result of inflation, and there was an 8.2% surge in sales at the group’s convenience stores and a 7.3% rise online.


The fashion and homeware chain kicked off the festive reporting season in style, beating forecasts by reporting a surprise rise in sales. Next received a last-minute boost from the the colder weather in the run-up to Christmas, which helped the retailer achieve a 1.5% increase in total sales in the 54 days to 24 December. It was much better than the 0.3% fall that City analysts had predicted, and prompted Next to upgrade its profit expectations for the year to January.


The UK’s fourth largest supermarket chain was a Christmas hit with bargain-hunting shoppers, after it said it had held the price of a basket of key festive items at the same level as the previous year, despite the rising cost of many commodities.

Morrisons said it had improved customer service by opening more tills and improving stock availability, while shoppers snapped up premium foods, children’s clothes and bags of vegetables. Sales rose by 2.8% in the 10 weeks to 7 January, well ahead of the 1.7% expected by analysts.

AO World

Internet retailers have also done well. Online electrical retailer AO said it was “on track” as it posted UK revenue growth of 11.4% in the three months to 31 December. Revenues in its Europe business jumped nearly 60% excluding currency effects, and overall group revenues advanced 16.6%.

Even so, AO, which sells domestic appliances and electronic products in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, remained “cautious given the uncertain UK economic outlook”.


The online fashion retailer had its best Black Friday period ever and said its PrettyLittleThing and Nasty Gal brands, acquired in late 2016 and early 2017 respectively, were faring well. Overall revenues doubled to £228.2m, with Boohoo up 25% to £142.6m in the four months to 31 December – slightly worse than expected. But PrettyLittleThing beat expectations with a 191% surge in revenues to £73.8m and Nasty Gal made £11.9m. The retailer raised its forecast for full-year group revenue growth to 90% from 80%.


The recently floated clothing chain popular with middle-class women and known for its bright floral prints and pink wellies enjoyed a bumper Christmas. Sales jumped 19.2% in the seven weeks to 7 January, compared with the same period a year earlier.

Joules said sales had grown both in its chain of shops and online, with the chief executive, Colin Porter, putting the success down to the “strength of the Joules brand, unique product proposition and customer engagement”. The company, which has 118 UK stores, said gross retail margins were unchanged over the festive period because it took “a selective approach to promotional activity”.

Fat Face

The casual clothing retailer was another festive winner, revealing a 12% increase in total sales in the five weeks to January. Fat Face said its decision not to go down the pre-Christmas discounting route was crucial to its success.

“We continue to believe that giving our customers price integrity before the big day has been central to this performance,” said Anthony Thompson, chief executive. Like-for-like sales over the five weeks rose 8%, and it had its best ever week of sales in the week ending 30 December.


Vintage designer clothing and first-edition books helped drive a sharp rise in online sales at Oxfam over Christmas. They jumped by one-third in the eight weeks to 23 December, increasing total sales by 1.2% to £16.9m. The charity store chain also more than doubled sales of its ethical Sourced by Oxfam gifts.


Marks & Spencer

Marks & Spencer reported a downbeat set of figures with a slump in sales of both food and clothing. Chief executive Steve Rowe admitted there had been a “mixed” performance. Like-for-like clothing and homewares sales at the highstreet stalwart fell 2.8% while, despite inflation of about 3.7%, sales in its food halls were down 0.4%.

House of Fraser

Another loser, House of Fraser said sales in its stores fell 2.9% in the six weeks to 23 December. Its internet sales were also down 7.5%. Its chief executive Alex Williamson said it had pulled back from discounting to shore up profits.

Last week it emerged that the department store chain is pushing its landlords for a rent cut, and planning to downsize some of its stores.

Card Factory

The greeting card retailer warned on profits, despite “solid” like-for-like sales growth of 2.7% in the 11 months to 31 December. The FTSE 250 firm, which opened 48 new UK stores during the period, is now expecting underlying profits for the year to come in between £93m and £95m. This is less than the £97m expected by analysts and last year’s profits of £98.5m.

Card Factory blamed the weaker pound and wage inflation as well as a bigger sales proportion of less profitable non-card products, which will result in extra costs of £7m to £8m.

Signet Jewellers

Another loser, the company posted a 5.3% decline in same-store sales to $1.9bn (£1.4bn) for the nine weeks to 30 December. Sales at its H. Samuel and Ernest Jones chains in the UK dropped more than 10% on the same basis, with bridal and diamond fashion jewellery struggling, although luxury watches and online sales fared better.


The first big shock of the Christmas reporting season came from Debenhams last week, which brought its festive update forward by a week to issue a profits warning. The department store chain said sales of seasonal gifts and clothing had fallen, despite heavy discounting.

Sales fell by 2.6% at Debenhams’ established UK stores, open for more than a year, in the 17 weeks to 30 December. Shares fell by 15% after the retailer warned full-year profits would come in between £55m and £65m – sharply below City expectations of £83m.


The baby and maternity products chain was another festive loser, after its decision to hold off from discounting in the run-up to Christmas failed to pay off. Mothercare was forced to issue a profits warning after like-for-like sales fell by 7.2% over the 12 weeks to 30 December.

The retailer said pre-tax profits in the full year to the end of March were likely to be somewhere between £1m and £5m – well below City expectations of £10m and a far cry from the £19.7m achieved a year earlier. Shares plunged by more than 30% to an all-time low of 42p.

Moss Bros

The men’s outfitter warned that profits would be slightly lower than expected, blaming lower shopper numbers in its stores. Like-for-like store sales slumped 8% in December in what the company described as “a very challenging backdrop”. It said consumer demand was weaker while it faced “cost headwinds”.

Total retail sales rose 1.6% in the 23 weeks to 6 January, helped by a 12.3% rise online. It said profits for the year to the end of January would be between £6.5m and £6.8m, which it said was slightly below analysts’ expectations.



You will note the two pictures of the day have nothing to do with the article that is because a photo of retailers is a bit dry. So the cartoons are meant to lighten the mood.

The fish one is based on the famous Dad’s Army sketch by witty artist Simon Drew the Lassie one is from The New Yorker magazine



Take care of the minutes and the hours will take care of themselves Lord Chesterfield


Happiness is…running a vinyl record shop (or market stall)


I can still remember a time when I knew more than my phone.


Love is…pooling your change for pizza the day before pay day


Only One Woman – Marbles

Highest Chart Position: No.5 30th October 1968