Retailers report Christmas sales gloom

The beleaguered retail sector has suffered another blow this morning (January 6) as falling sales over the Christmas period were reported by two major high street chains.

Debenhams, which was the first to stage one day discounts to boost festive spending, posted a 3.5% drop in sales the past 12 weeks compared to the same period last year. Next, which opted to hold off price cuts until after Christmas, posted a 7% fall in like-for-like sales for the six months to Christmas Eve.

Debenhams chief executive Rob Templeman says its figures were “creditable” given the “extremely difficult and volatile conditions” and highlighted the success of its Designers at Debenhams range and its own brand products, which the retailer claims have boosted market share.

Next were less bullish and predicted “negative” like-for-like sales for the full year, although it says its catalogue business would be more resilient.

Meanwhile, high street fashion retailer New Look bucked the downward trend by posting a 2.8% boost in UK sales over the 14 weeks to January 3, compared to the same period last year.

The results come a day after John Lewis reported an 2.4% overall rise in sales for the five weeks to January 3, due to positive sales of fashion and beauty products. However, speculation is mounting that Marks & Spencer, due to release its third quarter figures tomorrow, will see a drop in sales. Retail analysts have predicted the retailer will post its worst Christmas trading results in a decade.

It has been reported that M&S will also announce up to 1,000 job cuts, although it is refusing to confirm the reports.

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