Retailers show fresh signs of buoyant Christmas

Dixons chief Sebastian James. Picture: Contributed
Dixons chief Sebastian James. Picture: Contributed
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FRESH evidence that Britain’s retailers enjoyed a robust festive period emerged yesterday, with a slew of solid sales updates ranging from consumer electronics to car parts, cheap household goods and pet products.

Dixons Carphone, the £5 billion electronics giant created last year from the merger of Carphone Warehouse and Dixons Retail, said like-for-like sales climbed 8 per cent in the UK and Ireland in the nine weeks to 3 January.

Echoing the comments of some other retailers recently, chief executive Sebastian James said the trading period had been “something of a roller-coaster”.

He said the “huge scale and success” of Black Friday promotions at the end of November caused a lull in trading over the following three weeks before the company had a record Boxing Day.

James noted laptop sales returned to growth, but a lack of new products meant tablet sales fell sharply.

Dixons Carphone, which also owns Currys PC World, saw growth in sales in “ultra-high-definition” televisions and white goods.

A number of other retailers, including the John Lewis department store group, have reported Black Friday sales pulled trading into November, rather than growing overall revenues at Christmas.

Halfords, the cycles and car maintenance retailer, posted a 6.8 per cent rise in same-floorspace sales in the 15 weeks to 9 January.

Cycle sales rose 7.6 per cent against tough comparatives in the same period of the previous year, with children’s bikes a festive “standout performer”.

Car maintenance sales jumped 11 per cent, with the ­fitting of parts reaching record levels. However, there was a continued decline in satnav and audio products.

Matt Davies, Halfords chief executive, said: “Cycling sales continue to be strong, with children’s bikes revenues up 13.8 per cent, highlighting that, with the right product and service offer, a bike remains a popular Christmas present.”

It came as Pets At Home, the recently floated retailer of pet food and pet-related accessories, unveiled a 4.1 per cent rise in like-for-like sales in the 12 weeks to 1 January. Total revenue growth was 7.8 per cent to £182.2 million.

Nick Wood, Pets At Home chief executive, said: “We are very pleased with the continued growth in like-for-like sales. This reflects the strength of our offer, the multiple levers through which we can drive growth, and the resilience of the pet products and services market.”

Less impressive was the performance of WH Smith, which saw same-floorspace sales fall 2 per cent and total sales drop 1 per cent in the 20 weeks to 17 January.

Sales at WH Smith’s high street outlets slipped 5 per cent, although the stationery-to-books retailer did better in its travel outlets, including big airports, where same-floorspace sales lifted 2 per cent.

Poundland, the single price retailer, said total sales, excluding Spain, rose 9.8 per cent to £328.4m. It does not split out its like-for-like sales growth.

The latest, mainly positive, festive out-turns follow a string of other strong updates from such as Burberry, Greggs, House of Fraser, John Lewis and Next.