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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 January 2006, 17:37 GMT
Mixed fortunes on UK High Street
Christmas shoppers on Oxford Street in London
The consumer slowdown has been a nightmare for retailers
Christmas trading statements from the UK's High Street have continued to show a mixed pattern after a tough year for British retailers.

Despite recent rumours of a profit warning, department store chain House of Fraser reported a sharp improvement in sales over Christmas.

And retail group GUS said it was happy with the festive performances of its Argos and Homebase divisions.

But tough trading saw sales dip at UK card store chain Clinton Cards.

Like-for-like sales - which strip out the effects of store openings and closures - for the five weeks to Christmas fell by 2.4% amid challenging trading conditions, the company said.

"Customers were purchasing at lower price points than last year," it said.

As a result, the company warned that pre-tax profits for the year to 29 January would "fall short of expectations" .

Clinton Cards shares fell 14% following the update, down 10.5 pence at 64.5p.

Ringing up profit

Carphone Warehouse was happier with its Christmas after connections lifted 33% on a year ago as it continued to build its TalkTalk service.

After snapping up Onetel and Tele2's UK businesses it doubled the number of customers using its TalkTalk fixed-line services to 2.4 million. And Fresh, Carphone Warehouse's relaunched pre-paid mobile service, recruited 205,000 new customers.

"These figures represent a very strong performance across the group," said chief executive Charles Dunstone.

Despite the news, Carphone shares fell almost 1% or 2.5 pence to 265.75p.

Mixed bag

Retail conglomerate GUS said like-for-like sales at its Argos general stores were flat in the 14 weeks to 7 January, beating forecasts for a small drop in sales.

Like-for-like sales at its Homebase DIY chain fell 3%, while total sales rose 1%.

But credit-checking unit Experian had another strong quarter, GUS reported, with total sales up 25%.

Shares in GUS slipped 11.5 pence, or 1.14% to 993p.

Meanwhile, department stores group House of Fraser reported a 7.7% increase in like-for-like sales in the six weeks to 7 January.

"We are particularly pleased to see strong growth in high margin areas such as fashion accessories and menswear," the company said.

Its shares rose 1.25 pence, 1.13%, to 111.5p.


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