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Retailers suffer poor Xmas sales

Christmas trading statements have separated the winners from the losers, but the majority of fashion retailers suffered a shocking December with like-for-like clothing and footwear sales down on 2006.

Department stores, value retailers and the designer sector performed best. Footwear chain Kurt Geiger was among those to buck the trend and is thought to have scored like-for-like growth in the high single digits in December, despite pushing its Sale back by four days.

House of Fraser posted a comparable sales rise of 2.5% for the period, while John Lewis was in the winners camp with like-for-like growth of 6.2%.

Despite retailers such as John Lewis and Selfridges outperforming the market, the British Retail Consortium said overall like-for-likes were just 0.3% ahead in December, making it the worst Christmas for retailers for three years.

The BRC pointed out that the decline in clothing sales had slowed in December compared with October and November. However, it said this was due to dramatic discounting and special promotions in the run-up to Christmas.

Womenswear was the worst- performing category, which partly contributed to Next’s 3.2% fall in like-for-likes for the five months to Christmas Eve. The retailer said it was “extremely cautious” about prospects for 2008 and that it would not return to like-for-like growth this year.

However, menswear is understood to have held up relatively well. Dutch retailer Suit Supply, which debuted in London just before Christmas, said it had beaten its sales targets by more than 30%. Menswear chain Moss Bros is also understood to be ahead on like-for-like sales by as much as 7% post-Christmas, despite issuing a profit warning in December.

Sales also picked up after Christmas at multi-fascia business Alexon Group, which said it expected profits to be at least £12.5 million for the year, despite issuing a profit warning in December.

Separately, footwear sales in December were down compared with 2006 figures, calling into question the future of several footwear specialists, including Dolcis and Stead & Simpson.

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