House of Fraser reports on “disappointing” Christmas

Alex Williamson House of Fraser
Alex Williamson

Department store House of Fraser, which is in the midst of a major turnaround programme under a new CEO, has admitted it had a “disappointing” Christmas.

The retailer reported store sales down -2.9% in the six weeks to 23 December and, unlike a number of other retailers it wasn’t boosted by a strong e-commerce result, as digital sales were also down -7.5%. House of Fraser implemented new e-commerce technology earlier in 2017, which it had previously said was disruptive and negatively affected sales while it was bedded in.

Its stores experienced an improved Black Friday performance year on year with sales nudging up 0.8%, compared to a record performance in the prior year. It also said that since New Year’s Day its sales were broadly in line with last year across both stores and online.

CEO Alex Williamson, who joined the business from Goodwood last year, said: “We are a business in transition; our focus is on driving profitability rather than chasing revenue at any cost. We are not a business determined to sell everything to everyone at any price. What’s important, and we are seeing some success in the numbers, is to keep our discipline in selling those products that are loved by customers and profitable for House of Fraser.”

As part of its transformation plan the business, which is owned by Chinese group Sanpower, said it had made £10m in savings in 2017 and had identified a further £16m for 2018.

“The trajectory of our web business is now back on track following the [e-commerce] re-platforming carried out earlier in the year; our investment in our logistics and supply chain is beginning to yield dividends and through the careful curation of our product mix we grew margins over the Christmas period by 0.5%, at constant exchange rates. Let’s not forget we can trade with the best of them too as we delivered another record Black Friday performance,” Williamson added.