Retailers beat expectations on ‘Super Thursday’

A host of retailers including Tesco and the John Lewis Partnership have today released their trading figures from the Christmas period, showing a robust performance despite record low footfall across the UK in December.

Retail footfall was down 9.3 per cent in December 2016 compared with the previous year, reaching the lowest level ever recorded for the month of December, according to last week’s Ipsos Retail Performance indicator results.

The better than expected trading figures released today – which is being dubbed ‘Super Thursday’ – therefore suggest a strong online showing for UK retailers.

The John Lewis Partnership saw overall sales during the six weeks to 31 December increase 4.9 per cent from last year. Waitrose gross sales rose 4.8 per cent to £914.9 million, while John Lewis posted a 2.7 per cent rise to 998.1 million over the same period.

Supermarket giant Tesco also had reason to celebrate, after seeing like-for-like sales rise 0.7 per cent over the Christmas period, marking a third consecutive year of growth over the festive season. Tesco also saw its first quarterly market share gain since 2011.

M&S reported a 2.3 per cent rise in clothing and homeware sales, well above the 0.5 per cent expected figure and marking the first time the retailer has seen growth in clothing for two years. Food sales were also up 0.6 per cent compared with December 2015.

Debenhams also beat expectations, with like-for-like sales over the Christmas period increasing five per cent – smashing the one per cent drop analysts had been predicting. Asos, Primark and JD Sports were among other retailers posting strong end of year results, while House of Fraser revealed yesterday that its sales over the festive period had climbed 2.6 per cent.

Commenting on today’s raft of positive trading results, Jon Copestake, retail analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, said: “Retail's ‘Super Thursday’ has really turned out to be super for the majority of those reporting numbers today. Both Waitrose and John Lewis have reported strong like-for-like growth over the Christmas period. Tesco and M&S also saw sales edge up over Christmas with Tesco reporting solid sales for the quarter as a whole.

“With retailers such as Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Lidl and Aldi all reporting positive performances this week it seems that 2016 ended on a high for UK retail, in stark contrast to the tone set last week when Next reported a fall in Christmas sales. Most notable today has been the 2.3 per cent rise in like-for-like non-food sales at M&S, which vastly exceeded dour market expectations of a further decline.”

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