Great Christmas for retailers

Christmas 2016 was a very good one for most major retailers with improved like for like sales and few supply chain issues. Online sales growth outstripped high street performance.

Fashion and food retailer M&S moved back into growth in clothing, which outstripped its food business. Tesco also saw like for like sales growth, and online fashion retailer ASOS saw spectacular growth in the UK as well as its international markets.

In the 13 weeks to the 31st December, Marks & Spencer saw total sales up 4.5%. Clothing and Home sales were up 3.1%. Food sales were up 5.6%. Its online sales were up 9.4%.

Steve Rowe, chief executive, said: “In Clothing & Home, better ranges, better availability and better prices helped to improve our performance in a difficult marketplace. We also continued to substantially reduce discounting, including over Black Friday. Our Food business continues to grow market share with customers recognising our product as special and different. Our Simply Food store pipeline remains strong.”

In the six weeks to 31st December, John Lewis saw sales up 4.9% and its online sales were up 11.8%, making up for 40% of its overall sales profile. In a statement the Group said, “Operationally, our supply chain performed particularly well; on the Saturday after Black Friday our Magna Park distribution centre processed 33 per cent more units than the equivalent in 2015.”

Meanwhile John Lewis subsidiary Waitrose saw sales up 4.8% and online sales up 0.8%. Click and collect from Waitrose stores were up 18.5%.

JLP chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield said: “Although we expect to report profits up on last year, trading profit is under pressure. This reflects the greater changes taking place across the retail sector. We expect those to quicken, especially in the next 12 months as the effects of weaker Sterling feed through. We will now accelerate aspects of our strategy. This will involve a period of significant change, investment and innovation to ensure the Partnership’s success.”

For the six weeks to the 7th Jan, Tesco saw total UK sales up 0.9% and in the 19 weeks to the 7th January total UK sales were up 1.8%. The Group released a statement saying, “We delivered a strong operational performance across our store and distribution network, working with our supplier partners to improve service levels, stock flow and availability. On-time deliveries to our large stores improved to 98.9 per cent, enabling us to reduce our level of stock holding in stores by over £50m year -on-year, while improving availability in the peak Christmas week by a further 1 per cent.”

In the four months to the 31st December, ASOS saw UK sales up 18% and international sales were up 52%. Total group sales were up 36%. Nick Beighton, chief executive officer, said: “Following record sales over Cyber weekend and the Christmas trading period, I’m pleased to report a strong start to the year. A 50 per cent plus increase in international sales is a standout performance. UK sales growth at 18 per cent was a strong performance in a more promotional market. With sales for the year now expected to be up by c.25 to 30 per cent, we’re accelerating our infrastructure investment to handle that growth. ASOS remains well set to meet its longer-term ambitions as a result of the hard work and commitment of the team.”  
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