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News - 6 January 2009

UK Christmas trade - a mixed picture.

Clothing retailer Next announced that its sales had dropped 7% in the six months between July and December (inclusive), Debenhams said its sales in the past 12 weeks had fallen 3.3% and Marks and Spencer plans to cut more than 1,000 jobs (1.4% of its workforce). Meanwhile the stars of the show were John Lewis which equalled last year's performance and New Look which improved on it.

But both Next, which unlike M&S and many other fashion retailers refused to slash prices in the approach to Christmas and the debt laden department store chain Debehmans fared better than had been expected and Next shares have risen 8.7% and Debenhams 30% as a consequence. New Look reported a sales rise of 2.8% over the Christmas trading period. John Lewis which also declined to start their sales before Christmas equalled their 2007 trading figures. M&S, widley expected to have had a poor time, reports on sales later in the week.

The jobs losses in M&S will be across shop floor, head office and back office support functions.

Debenhams, which has 153 stores in the UK and Irish Republic, has seen its shares fall more than 80% over the past two years on fears about its ability to pay its debts. Meanwhile DSG International, owners of the Curry's and PC World brand, are expected to report a decline of 10% when they report this week.

The updates come as the Nationwide's consumer confidence index fell to just 47 last month, nearly half of its level of 84 in December 2007, and down from 51 in November.

Read related items on:
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