A fall in underlying sales at three of the UK’s biggest retail names led to speculation about the patchy nature of the nation’s economic recovery.
Marks and Spencer, still looked to as a barometer for the nation’s high street shopping habits, said this morning it had suffered another fall in sales at its clothing, homewares and general merchandise (GM) divisions.
Like-for-like sales fell 2.1 per cent in the three months to the end of December. The figure excluded new store openings.
The business did see a small improvement over the eight weeks, during which it launched a sale with its GM division up 0.5 per cent.
Overall group sales rose 0.2 per cent in the third quarter with food up 1.6 per cent and on-line sales up 22.7 per cent.
Wm Morrison, the Bradford-based supermarket group which has just opened a new store at Gloucester’s Railway Triangle, said like-for-like sales dropped 5.6 per cent over Christmas and warned today that full-year profits would be at the bottom of market expectations.
Tesco did not fare quite so badly, but still reported a 2.4 per cent fall in like-for-like sales in the six weeks to January 4, blaming a “weaker grocery market”.
International sales at the British supermarket giant were down 0.7 per cent. The business blamed political instability in Thailand as partly behind the fall.
On the plus side, Tesco’s on-line performance saw a 14 per cent rise in UK sales. It still expects trading profit to be in the range of £3.2blln to £3.4blln.
In contrast to the above British baker Greggs (GRG.L) said it returned to sales growth in the fourth quarter. Greggs said it was helped by strong trading in the Christmas period.
The bakery business said on Thursday that like-for-like sales grew 2.6 percent in its fiscal fourth quarter, with sales in the five week festive period up 3.1 percent.
Fashion retailer New Look said it had enjoyed positive like-for-like sales during the crucial Christmas trading period.
New Look, the UK's second-largest women's value fashion retailer, owned by private equity funds Apax and Permira, said that UK sales for the five weeks to December 31 had risen 3.4pc, excluding VAT, or 3.6pc like-for-like.