Multiples that resisted the temptation to slash prices in the run-up to Christmas, including Next, John Lewis and Jigsaw, fared better than the heavy discounters over the festive season.
Next, which took a firm stance against pre-Christmas discounting and stuck to its traditional Boxing Day Sale, increased sales 2.9% for the two months to December 24. It expects profits of £775m for the year to January 24, £5m above its revised forecast issued in October.
“I have never known an autumn like this where everyone was discounting from the end of September until December,” he told Drapers. “It wasn’t an easy decision to stay off Sale, but common sense tells you it’s the right thing to do, and it was. Everyone talks about Black Friday, but the issue is fashion retailers are on a permanent discount and consumers are starting to disbelieve the true value of products.”
John Lewis managing director Andy Street said the five weeks to December 27 showed the “changing shape of trade” over Christmas. While John Lewis did not run any pre-Christmas Sales, its ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ policy meant it had to price-match.
Street called for an industry rethink on Black Friday. He argued the spike in trading over such a short period was not helpful because of the strain it put on retailers to fulfil massive demand, and because of the impact on margins due to the frenzied discounting.
The department store chain posted total sales of £777m during the period, up 5.8% on last year and a rise of 4.8% on a like-for-like basis.
The chief executive of a major footwear chain agreed with Street’s analysis: “Christmas was lacklustre for us. We did a targeted Sale on selected items for four days over Black Friday, but for the next two weeks we paid the price as it was quiet. We got back onto our normal sales pattern for the two weeks before Christmas, but trading was tough.”
Meanwhile, Boohoo.com has warned its full-year performance will be below market expectations, after heavy promotional activity on the high street drove its sales growth down to 25% in the four months to December 31, 2014.
Plus-size womenswear retailer Yours Clothing said it was “reasonably pleased” with Christmas trading this year, with like-for-like performance marginally up on last year and much stronger growth online.
“New stores and international growth added volume over and above this growth,” said marketing director Resh Dorka. “Sale timings were in line with last year and we launched our Sale before Christmas on December 22. However as with other retailers we were hit by milder weather and as a result markdowns were a little deeper than last year.”
Two of the UK’s biggest retailers, Marks & Spencer and Tesco - which both participated in Black Friday and pre-Christmas discounting - are expected to report a slump in sales over the festive period on Thursday.
M&S is expected to reveal a 3% drop in sales of its general merchandise over the last quarter as clothing sales continue to struggle.
Analysts at Deutsche Bank, Tesco’s house broker, have forecast the supermarket will report a 5% drop in like-for-like sales for the three months to November 30 and a fall of 4.3% for the period since then, including Christmas.