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Xmas tills start to ring

Christmas trading finally kicked off last week, as consumers went ahead and spent despite their financial worries.
The message from retailers was generally positive, but there were some exceptions, which will not allay fears about the remaining festive shopping days.

The chief executive of one footwear business said: “Christ-mas trading really started last Thursday and Friday, helped in part by pay day. We had a good weekend and that carried through to Sunday and Monday. But you have to watch your stock levels.”

The boss of another footwear retailer was less upbeat. “We have seen a pick-up over the past week, but it is discount driven. Short of an unforeseen Christ-mas recovery, we will miss our target this year. Consumers are spooked and I see it being very difficult into 2008,” he warned.

In the value market, Select business development director John Sunderland said: “Six weeks ago, we thought Christ-mas would be tough, but I’m cautiously optimistic now.”

He added that Select may have benefited because of cautious consumers trading down to the value market.
Department store performance is understood to have been mixed, although House of Fraser achieved strong sales last week when it held its two-day 20%-off Brand Spectacular. Like-for-like sales rose by single digits, and the company said Christmas sales were coming a week later than last year.

It added that it was sending out 20%-off vouchers by email to boost trade this weekend.

John Lewis fashion buying director Peter Ruis said trading was ahead of last year. “Some of the colder weather product started off quite well but has dropped off a little, but all the Christmas stuff is selling well.”

Online remains the strongest area. Asos.com unveiled a 101% rise in sales for the nine weeks to December 2.

Chief executive Nick Robert-son said: “Last week’s sales were £4.2 million, and this week we expect to be 20% up on that. On Tuesday we had our biggest sales day in our history, with £796,000 in sales.”

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