Rapidly diminishing consumer confidence allied to the march of online giants such as Amazon have made life difficult for the UK’s major shop keeping chains. Buffeted by these headwinds, they have, with the notable exceptions of Debenhams and Halfords, come through a tricky festive period with only a few bumps and bruises. Below we provide a cut-out-and-keep guide to the major quoted retailers and how they performed.
The number: Britain's biggest retailer recorded UK like-for-like sales growth of 2.2% over the six weeks to January 5.
From the company: “In the UK we delivered significant improvements in our competitive offer and this is reflected in a very strong Christmas performance which was ahead of the market,” chief executive Dave Lewis said.
The City view: Its £4bn acquisition of cash and carry group Booker looks like a “strategic triumph” – Richard Hunter, Interactive Investor.
Verdict: Winner (Tesco’s best performance since 2009).
Marks & Spencer PLC (LON:MKS)
The number: Like-for-likes covering the 13 weeks to December 29 were off 2.2% after it refused to get sucked into pre-Christmas discounting.
From the company: “Against the backdrop of well publicised difficult market conditions our performance remained steady across the period,” said boss Steve Rowe.
The City view: “M&S now has a team in place that is addressing structural and operational issues and we are pleased to see the long-term transformation programme remains on track,” said Clive Black, the retail veteran from Shore Capital.
Verdict: Jury’s out (Christmas could have been a lot worse).
John Lewis (owned by the partners)
The numbers: Like-for-likes were up 1% for the seven weeks ended January 5.
From the company: It might be forced to cancel the annual staff profit share for the first time since 1953.
Why? It was pulled into the discounting frenzy that affected the high street pre-Christmas.
The number: Like-for-likes were off 5.7% over the 18 weeks to January 5.
From the company: It is in talks with lenders and has put on hold asset sales until the outcome of those talks is known.
The City view: The more than 80% slide in the share price over that past year tells you all you need to know.
Verdict: Definitely not winning; may soon be DEB and buried.
Halfords PLC (LON:HFD)
The number: Like-for-likes were down 2.2% for the 14 weeks to January 4.
From the company: Sounding its second earnings alarm of the financial year, it blamed a deterioration in consumer confidence for its woes (and the weather, of course).
The City view: On yer bike as the shares fell by a quarter
DFS PLC (LON:DFS)
The numbers: Gross sales up 10%.
From the company: Profit forecasts remain intact; outlook clouded by political uncertainty (Brexit)
The City view: The sofa company that’s permanently on-sale is a hit in with the Square Mile. Its shares are up 12% in the year to date.
Verdict: Comfortable winner.
B&M European Value Retail (LON:BME)
The number: Underlying sales were up 1.2% in December, but down 1.6% for the quarter.
From the company: “Pleasing” end to the year after uncertain trading conditions in November.
Verdict: After its summer lull things seem to be back on track. Winner.
The number: Sales slid 1.1% in the 15 weeks to January 5.
From the company: “We are very pleased how we managed a tricky market,” said Mike Coupe, chief executive.
The City view: Analysts are more interested in the status of the Asda merger than Sainsbury’s lacklustre trading figures.
Verdict: The jury’s out.
The number: Retail sales increased by 12.2% in the five weeks to 5 January; clocked up strong online growth.
From the company: “This result again reflects the strength of the brand and the quality of our collections,” said Lindsay Page, the acting chief executive.
The number: Fourth quarter underlying sales were up 5.2%.
From the company: Greggs struggled to keep up with demand for its vegan sausage roll.
The City view: The shares rose to a record high.
Verdict: It's on a roll.
The number: A 1.4% drop in revenues for the 13 weeks to the end of December.
From the company: Market conditions remain tough.
Verdict: More bottoms than Topps.
The number: Festive sales were up 6.8%.
From the company: The online arm Naked Wines performed exceptionally. Not ruling out store closures.
The number: Sales fell 11.4%.
From the company: The transformation is still on track.
The number: Same-store sales rose 0.6% in the nine weeks to January 6.
From the company: “Customers felt the effects of a spend-up over the summer and the uncertainty over Brexit,” said boss David Potts.
The City view: Analysts didn’t expect much from Morrisons and weren’t disappointed.
Verdict: A Lidl disappointing.
Dunelm Group PLC (LON:DNLM)
The number: Underlying sales were up 9% for the quarter to the end of December.
From the company: It was inundated by demand for unicorn-themed products.
The number: Same-store sales were up 1.5% in the nine weeks to December 29.
From the company: Uncertainties such as Brexit will continue to shape sentiment.
The City view: Multiple broker upgrades.
Verdict: Winner. A Wolfson in sheep's clothing.