Who said Christmas was going to be a torrid time for retailers? Three more high street chains – department store John Lewis, sportswear group JD Sports and camera store Jessops – have all reported better-than-expected sales figures this morning. Top of the class was the John Lewis Partnership: its sales last week were up a massive 16% on the same period 12 months ago, as shoppers flocked to take advantage of its post-Christmas sale. But JD and Jessops also impressed, with sales for the last five weeks up 2.8% and 3.1% respectively. After Sainsbury’s surprising figures yesterday, it’s been a remarkably positive end to the first full week of 2009.
There were certainly some happy faces at John Lewis, after it racked up sales of nearly £160m last week. The department store business was the star performer, with sales up more than 27% on last year: ‘Was it the fall of the calendar? Was it the weather? Was it driven by constant media reports of the bargains to be had? It is difficult to tell, but what we know for sure is that we delivered a truly inspirational result last week,’ the retailer gushed this morning. Clearance bargains flew off the shelves, while the website had its fourth busiest week ever, helping the retailer to finish the five-week Christmas period up 2.4% on last year. And just to give the Partners some extra new year cheer, even Waitrose managed a 7% sales hike...
JD Sports, the goody-two-shoes of the sportswear industry, was another to finish the period in positive territory – a strong Christmas period means its sales for the 48 weeks to January 3 are up 3.8% on last year. Best of all, unlike many of its rivals, it’s been able to maintain sales without affecting margin: it didn’t even start discounting until Boxing Day, and as a result it’s now expecting to deliver higher-than-expected full-year profits. Now that’s just showing off.
Perhaps the most surprising of the three was Jessops: the chain has been struggling in recent years due to the decline of digital camera sales, but it clearly enjoyed a welcome Christmas boost, with sales up 3.1% on last year. Unfortunately that’s where the good news ends: despite this late rally, Jessops still finished the quarter nearly 6% down on last year – and this sales lift has been funded partly out of profit margins (i.e. by heavy discounting).
John Lewis was at pains to point out today that every retailer is going to find the going tough in the next few months. But since it’s Friday, let’s focus on the positives: at least these three appear to have got their Christmas sales strategy just about right. Now they can worry about the spring...
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