The weeks leading up to Christmas are traditionally lucrative for our high-street retailers, but there will always be those who perform better than others. The week preceding this year’s festive period was particularly strong, and as firms report their sales figures, we can see who did well and who struggled. Let’s take a look at the key players…
Most high-street retailers did well in the lead-up to Christmas 2016, but Next was a notable exception. Its trading figures were so dismal that their unveiling dragged down shares across the entirety of the sector.
Marks & Spencer
Marks & Spencer had a much better time of it, with their best Christmas in six years and an end to falling clothing sales. Like-for-like, these rose 2.3 per cent over the 13 weeks preceding 31st December – a welcome change from last year’s 6 per cent drop. Food sales also grew, by 0.6 per cent, a trend new boss Steve Rowe attributes to “better ranges, better availability, and better prices.”
It was a bumper Christmas all round for supermarket giants, and Morrisons celebrated its best Christmas shopping profits in seven years. It reported a healthy 2.9 per cent increase in like-for-like sales during the nine weeks leading up to January 1st, with figures for its clothing range increasing by a whopping 30 per cent.
Britain’s second largest supermarket was another winner, enjoying record Christmas sales and its first growth since March 2016. Like-for-like sales at Argos, which the chain purchased last year, also rose by more than 4 per cent – double the figure forecast by the City.
At Britain’s biggest supermarket, food, clothing, and toys sales all increased over the Christmas period, growing by 0.7 per cent in the weeks leading up to 7th January. This exceeded all predictions, with particular highlights being party food, premium wine, and allergy-free options, which increased 24 per cent, 20 per cent, and 18 per cent respectively.
Aldi showed thriving sales figures across December, with a 15 per cent increase compared to the previous year. Festive vegetables, mince pies, and prosecco were amongst its best sellers.
The other German discount chain also saw a boost in sales, which rose by 10 per cent year-on-year in December. Its savvy social media campaign helped it to sell a whopping 200,000 lobsters, while mini stollen, serrano ham, and Christmas puddings also flew off the shelves.
It was not only supermarket chains that did well: high-street retailer Debenhams also did better than expected during Christmas trading, with beauty products and gift sets proving especially popular. In the seven weeks to 7th January, like-for-like sales increased by 5 per cent, despite a predicted 1 per cent drop.
Last but not least, let’s take a look at discount brand Primark. According to owner Associated British Foods, total sales were up 11 per cent year-on year in constant currency terms, which equals a phenomenal 22 per cent growth in actual currency terms due to the falling value of the pound.
For the UK retail sector, Christmas 2016 was undoubtedly a resounding success.