Retailers JJB Sports and Ted Baker both recorded increased Christmas sales figures. JJB, which operates high street sports shops and a range of health clubs, saw revenue jump 2.5%, including a 2.2% rise in like-for-like sales. Designer clothing brand Ted Baker – a Christmas present favourite, judging by the crowds in its Regent Street store in December – did even better, posting a 12.5% increase in sales. Ted enjoyed a share price bounce this morning, although JJB fell amid concerns that heavy discounting would ravage its profit margins.
Companies with a strong online presence also seem to have had a good Christmas. Today home clothing retailer N Brown, whose wares are particularly popular with size 20-plus ladies, reported a 14% jump in like-for like sales during the last quarter. With analysts predicting full-year profits of £71.3m, and a 30% jump in new customers during the second half, its share price soared this morning (less imaginative publications would probably resorts to jokes about fuller figures and chunky profit lines at this point, but fortunately we’re above that sort of thing).
But as you’d expect, there was some bad news around too. Sofa store SCS saw its share price dive again today after revealing that Christmas sales were down 16% on last year. Warning that it saw no sign of respite from the current spending slowdown, it also cancelled its dividend and suspended its expansion plan. It’s now halved in value since the start of the year. Clearly people might be prepared to shell out on a nice shirt, but they’re not willing to invest in a new sofa.
A big test for the beleaguered retail sector will come this week, when Tesco reports its Christmas trading results. If it’s done well – as analysts seem to be expecting – it should shore up confidence. But if it’s done badly, like M&S, the doom and gloom will be turned up another notch...