The winners on the high street
The post-Christmas reporting season is in full swing, with Next having the most to cheer about.
Retailers' traditional post-Christmas reporting season is in full swing. Fashion group Next was one of the big winners, with sales between 1 November and 24 December jumping by 12%. Online sales jumped by a fifth at John Lewis, where internet sales comprised a third of the total. House of Fraser also performed strongly, unlike Debenhams, which issued a profit warning.
In the supermarket sector, J Sainsbury's strong Christmas allowed it to eke out marginal sales growth in the fourth quarter. The best-performing supermarkets were the premium and the discount chains. Aldi, Lidl and Waitrose have gained market share.
What the commentators said
This is counterproductive, as customers used to discounts early in the season become reluctant to pay full price for anything, while a track record of pre-Christmas discounting "appears to have started to erode shoppers' broader confidence" in a brand.
Having a strong online business was the other driver of healthy sales, said Graham Ruddick in The Sunday Telegraph. Next offered a free next-day delivery service to stores, so customers could order online the weekend before Christmas Day and collect it in time. As a result, internet sales did not fall off after a good start as they have in previous years.
John Lewis is also notable for its click-and-collect service. Sales of this kind rose by 60% year-on-year. The lessons, then, are simple, concluded Iain Dey in The Sunday Times. "Don't cut prices too far and find a way to make the internet work" for customers. Keep that in mind in the next few weeks as the "endless excuses" start to come out of retailers' mouths.