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Young fashion defies downturn

Young fashion retailers were among the winners over the Christmas period, with several posting like-for-like sales rises as their core customers were less impacted by the economic downturn.

Value players New Look and Peacocks, which have a good proportion of young shoppers, posted like-for-like increases of 2.8% and 1% respectively for the 14 weeks to January 3, while also increasing margin.

Although the reporting periods varied – only some retailers included post-Christmas and New Year sales – the general trend was more positive than had been expected in the young fashion market. A 12.5% like-for-like increase at JD Sports Fashion’s branded young fashion chains Bank and Scotts helped boost the group’s overall like-for-likes by 2.8% for the five weeks to January 3.

Fellow branded fashion chains Republic, Blue Inc and Cult Clothing also recorded like-for-like increases of 6.8%, 6% and 22.9% respectively. Young fashion retailers cited clear differentiation of offer, and the fact that they held off discounting until after Christmas, as helping to boost sales and maintain margin. Young fashion retailers also said their core customers were less impacted by the recession. Online discount branded fashion retailer M and M Direct reported a 31% increase in sales for the 10 weeks to January 4.

The middle market fared less well, although department store chain Debenhams surprised the market with a lower like-for-like drop than expected of 3.3%, while maintaining margin. It said its pre-Christmas discounting had been planned. Next and Marks & Spencer saw like-for-likes drop about 7%, with the latter also announcing 450 job cuts at head office.

At the more premium end of the market, lifestyle retailer Ted Baker posted a sales rise, but margins were hit by discounting in the run-up to Christmas. Department store chain House of Fraser reported a dip in like-for-likes, with gross profit up on the same period last year.

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