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Last Updated: Friday, 14 January, 2005, 16:36 GMT
Christmas sales up at Body Shop
Body Shop store in London
Overseas sales now account for most of The Body Shop's business
UK sales at The Body Shop rose by 5% in the crucial festive season - helping to erase memories of a slump in 2003.

But the natural beauty products retailer said like-for-like sales in its home market in the past 10 months had declined by 1%.

Overseas stores now account for three-quarters of business at The Body Shop, one of the icons of the British High Street in the 1980s.

Overall group sales in the 10 weeks to 1 January were up 3%.

Stores in the Asia-Pacific region were the best performing, with sales increasing by 7% over the 10 week period. The US was the only region to record a fall.

Brand repositioning

The Body Shop's Christmas figures were an improvement on 2003, when group sales were down 5% and sales in the UK and Ireland slumped 16%.

Our repositioning of the brand continues to progress
Peter Saunders, Body Shop chief executive

This improvement contrasts with other leading names such as Marks & Spencer and Woolworth's which have reported disappointing figures over the Christmas season.

Analysts reacted positively to the announcement, and Body Shop's shares closed up 2.96% at 165 pence.

The firm's At Home division, which organises direct-selling parties at customer's houses, has seen sales increase 34% so far this year.

Annual profits this year would be slightly above market expectations of about 35m, said chief executive Peter Saunders.

"Our repositioning of the brand continues to progress, and we expect to deliver another year of good performance," he said.

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