DUESSELDORF, Germany Jan 22 German retailer
Douglas said Christmas sales fell short of its
expectations as it posted a 31 percent drop in annual operating
profit, hit by weakness at its books division.
It has been a fiercely competitive holiday season in
austerity-hit Europe, with retailers fighting over shoppers'
dwindling budgets with discounts and offers.
Douglas, which had already reported sales up 1.7 percent to
3.44 billion euros ($4.6 billion) for the 12 months to
end-September, said on Tuesday revenue in its fiscal first
quarter, which includes Christmas, rose 1.6 percent.
Chief Executive Henning Kreke said the figure "was slightly
below our expectations."
The company, publishing its last set of annual results as a
listed company following a takeover by its founding family and
private equity, said earnings before interest, tax, depreciation
and amortisation came to 201.2 million euros for the year to
September, in line with its forecast.
At the Thalia chain of bookstores, which Douglas has been
restructuring after it was caught out by competition from online
rivals like Amazon.com, the firm booked restructuring costs and
writedowns of 155 million euros for the fiscal year, dragging
the group down to a net loss of 109.9 million euros.
It would not be paying a dividend for the year, it added.
Jewellery was a bright spot, Douglas said, with sales in the
fiscal year at its Christ chain of stores up 9.6 percent.
Demand for diamond rings and gold watches is being fuelled
by an uncertain economic outlook, which is making shoppers in
Europe's largest economy seek out gifts more likely to retain -
and possibly increase - their value, experts have said.
($1 = 0.7510 euros)
(Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Mark Potter)