Fur and swimwear sales soar

Pedestrians walk past the Debenhams store on Oxford Street, in central London October 19, 2008. 2008. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

LONDON (Reuters) - Sales of fur coats and swimsuits are soaring as Britons either wrap up against the worst cold snap for 30 years or take advantage of cut-price holidays to escape to warmer climes.

Department stores group Debenhams said on Wednesday sales of faux-fur coats were up around 22 percent year-on-year and sales of thermal underwear, usually only bought in quantity in Scotland, were up 14 percent.

“It’s meant to be ‘fur coat and no knickers’, but our sales prove the old adage wrong -- this winter it’s about fur coats and thermal knickers,” said spokeswoman Elena Antoniou.

Debenhams also noted a 125 percent surge in sales of swimwear as Britons snap up cut-price offers from tour operators to seek warmer weather abroad.

Marks & Spencer also reported strong demand for leggings, opaque tights, gloves and scarves as it unveiled a rise in underlying Christmas sales, but warned the snow was disrupting business as well.

“We lost a substantial millions of pounds in the last 10 days to Christmas,” Chairman Stuart Rose told analysts on a conference call, adding the overall impact of the cold weather so far had probably been neutral.

“But if it continues like this over a 10-day, two-week, three-week period, it will affect everybody,” he added.

Reporting by Mark Potter; Editing by David Holmes