(Reuters) - Britain’s retailers reported mixed results for the critical Christmas period, with major supermarkets suffering their slowest festive season in years and retailers varied in their performance.
Data on Thursday showed British shoppers cut back on spending in late 2019, rounding off the worst year since at least the mid-1990s for retail sales as measured by an industry group amid uncertainty about Brexit and last month’s election.
That followed relatively subdued updates from the high street following “Black Friday” sales at the end of November.
Following are some of the highlights by sector:
Britain’s biggest retailer ground out a 0.1% rise in underlying sales in its home market on Jan. 9 during what it said was a “subdued” Christmas for consumer spending.
Britain’s No. 2 supermarket group reported a slight drop in underlying sales on Jan. 8 as weak demand for general merchandise overshadowed solid sales of food.
Like-for-like sales, excluding fuel, fell 0.7% in the 15 weeks to Jan. 4.
The country’s fourth-largest supermarket group reported another fall in underlying sales over Christmas on Jan. 7 as a tough economic backdrop and sustained consumer uncertainty deterred shoppers from splashing out.
The British arm of the German discount supermarket said on Jan. 6 total sales rose 7.9% year-on-year in the four weeks to Dec. 24, driven by strong demand for beer, wine and spirits and its range of premium products.
DEPARTMENT STORES, HOMEWARE AND CLOTHES:
JOHN LEWIS [JLPLC.UL]
Britain’s best-known store chain on Jan. 9 cut its annual profit forecast after weak Christmas sales and said the head of its department stores would go.
Profit before exceptionals would be “significantly” lower than last year, with earnings from the general stores “substantially” down, the Waitrose owner said.
MARKS & SPENCER MKS.L
The retailer on Jan. 9 said its performance over the key Christmas quarter was held back by waste in its food business and weak sales of menswear and gifts.
The homewares retailer forecast a near 20% jump in earnings for the first half of its fiscal year, benefiting from its decision to stay away from discounting during the key holiday season that included Black Friday and Christmas.
The British clothing retailer raised its full-year profit forecast on Jan. 3 after a better-than-expected Christmas performance.
PUBS & RESTAURANTS:
MITCHELLS & BUTLERS MAB.L
The pub and restaurant operator reported strong sales for the festive season on Jan. 9, defying high street gloom and wet weather, as more diners opted for its pricier healthy menu options.
The greeting card retailer on Jan. 9 said it expected lower annual earnings as last month’s general election and weak consumer confidence hurt performance in the key Christmas period.
Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar in Bengaluru; editing by Josephine Mason and Nick Macfie
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