Retail results wrap-up: John Lewis, Primark, Debenhams, Supergroup
A flurry of retailers released their Christmas trading updates yesterday sending analysts and financial reporters into a tailspin. After ASOS and M&S got things off to a positive start (with a 36% sales rise and, finally, an increase in clothing sales respectively) many more big names posted strong Christmas sales but this is tempered with news that the outlook for retail remains tough.
John Lewis posted total sales up 4.99% up at £998.1m and like-for-like sales up 2.7% in the six weeks to 31 December with its high end supermarket Waitrose achieving similar percentage rises. Chairman Charlie Mayfield said he had been particularly pleased with the performance of its online channel (which now accounts for 40% of group sales) however the outlook was challenging, particularly in light of the pound's slide in value since the Brexit vote.
"[...] although we expect to report profits up on last year, trading profit is under pressure," Mayfield said. "This reflects the greater changes taking place across the retail sector. We expect those to quicken, especially in the next 12 months as the effects of weaker Sterling feed through. We will now accelerate aspects of our strategy. This will involve a period of significant change, investment and innovation to ensure the Partnership's success."
The bonus paid to its staff, or partners, is likely to be cut this year as a result - last year it stood at 10%.
Primark also had a good Christmas with sales on a constant currency basis up 11% in the 16 weeks to 7 January. The UK had performed particularly well, it said, but there were small declines in like-for-like sales in Germany and the Netherlands while the US "continued to develop".
Currency again plays a part in Primark's profit forecasts with the strength of the US Dollar expected to impact full-year operating margin due to higher input costs, but it has hedged its foreign currency for the remaining purchases in this financial year.
The business has been rapidly expanding its retail selling space with new store openings, relocations and expansions. Retail selling space has increased by 0.8 million sq ft since the financial year end and, at 7 January 2017, 328 stores were trading from 13.1 million sq ft. 15 new stores were opened in the period comprising relocations in Reading and Sheffield to larger, more central locations; new UK stores in Carlisle, Stafford, Truro and York; Liffey Valley in Ireland; Mallorca in Spain; Mannheim and Hamburg in Germany; Lille and Paris, Evry in France; a second store in Italy in Brescia; an 89,000 sq ft store in the centre of Amsterdam; and its sixth store in the US in Burlington, Massachusetts.
Department store Debenhams which has been undergoing a shift in focus away from fashion and has invested significantly in beauty among other areas saw its strategy start to pay off.
It posted a 3.5% rise in like-for-like sales in the 18 weeks to January 7, with UK like-for-like sales up by 1%, which it said had been boosted by sales of make-up and perfume.
Over the shorter seven-week Christmas period to January 7, which also covers the Black Friday sale period at the end of November, like-for-like sales were up 5%.
Finally Supergroup, owner of Superdry, continued to perform well. Sales were up 14.9% in the 10 weeks to 7 January and it also revealed its interim results for the 26 weeks to 29 October showing group revenue up 31.1% at £334m.