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Friday, 12 January 2018
“The past 10 days have seen many UK retailers report their Christmas trading figures. The picture remains mixed, although it is possible to identify some trends. Firstly, food retailers seem to have benefitted from food inflation, with the three listed ones (and obviously the discounters, Aldi and Lidl) posting positive like-for-like sales. However, we remain concerned that all the good news is due to higher prices and volumes have slowed down or even declined. Furthermore, sales of non-food items (which used to be one of the few positives until 2016) declined at both Tesco and Sainsbury. At Marks and Spencer, food sales also suffered, as the UK consumer seems more reticent to spend on more upmarket food items. 

On the clothing (and general merchandise) side, the general environment remains one of soft volume growth and heightened competitive activity. In spite of this, some retailers managed to eke out some sales growth, amongst them Next, Fat Face, Shoe Zone and Joules. On the other hand, department stores which seem to lack a clear identity, such as Debenhams and House of Fraser, saw less customers, and Marks and Spencer sales have deteriorated since the third quarter, especially in general merchandise.”

Nicla Di Palma, Equity Analyst, Brewin Dolphin

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