Financial News

  • 5 January 2014, 0:28

Xmas Cheer For John Lewis And House Of Fraser

House of Fraser has reported its best Christmas while John Lewis also credited stronger online business for an increase in festive sales.

The two department store chains' fortunes were in stark contrast to those of rival Debenhams, which has issued a profits warning and confirmed it had lost its chief financial officer in the wake of poor sales.

House of Fraser, which trades from 61 stores in Britain and Ireland, said like-for-like sales excluding VAT for the three weeks to December 28 rose 7.3%, with online sales up 57.7%.

Like-for-like sales excluding VAT for the first nine weeks of its fourth quarter were up 4.3%, the firm said, adding it expected to finish the year with lower net debt, which stood at 157.2m for the year to January 26 2013.

The firm, which made a loss before tax and exceptional items of 6.9m in its last fiscal year, has reportedly been in talks with French department stores group Galeries Lafayette over a possible sale.

It has spent almost a decade under private ownership but had been considering a return to the stock market after previous attempts at a possible trade sale had failed.

John Lewis said it had grown like-for-like sales by 6.9% over the five weeks to December 28, with total sales topping 734m.

That performance included a 1.2% boost for its stores and a 22.6% rise in online takings compared with 2012.

The first day of clearance sales in branches on December 27 saw the biggest ever day of trading across the business, taking 35.6m.

John Lewis also highlighted what it called the UK's first 'mobile Christmas' as three-quarters of Christmas Day online traffic came from phones and tablet computers.

Managing director Andy Street said sales over the five weeks had taken a different shape to previous years, with an early peak and a "huge surge" in the last 10 days, including a frenetic Monday two days before Christmas.

"Many of the big online shopping days and weeks occurred earlier in the period but shops were packed in the last-minute rush on 'manic Monday' when we saw our city centre shops record peak days," he said.

He added that "must-have" items included tablet computers, Christmas lights and coffee machines.

Sales at John Lewis, which regularly publishes weekly trading figures, are seen by analysts as a useful insight into spending patterns - though its customers are viewed as less likely to be affected by the squeeze in income than average shoppers.

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