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Monday, 8 January, 2001, 18:11 GMT
Toys and games firms' festive cheer
Hamleys store exterior
Hamley flagship London store: refit helped boost trade 13%
Toy store Hamleys and games seller Electronics Boutique have opened a week of key statements on Christmas shopping figures by revealing rocketing sales.

Hamley's overall like-for-like sales rose 10% in the five weeks to Christmas, with the firm's leading Regent Street store in London reporting 13% growth, it said.

Electronics Boutique, the UK's largest retailer of computer software and video games, reported record sales during December.

The data represents further evidence that UK stores enjoyed strong business over Christmas, easing fears over a slowdown in the country's economy, and possibly postponing hopes of a cut in interest rates.

Brisk trade

Monday's statements follow forecasts from the Confederation of British Industry and store chain John Lewis of strong retail sales during December.
Christmas trading statements so far
Stores
Electronics Boutique: +15%
Hamleys: +10%
Signet: +8.7% (UK)

Pubs & clubs

Chorion: +18%
Springwood: +18%
Honeycombe Leisure: +3%

Figs: like-for-like sales, compared to same period 1999

And jeweller Signet, owner of chains including H Samuel and Ernest Jones, last week announced that sales were up 8.7% in UK stores in the run up to the holiday period.

Among pub and bar operators, Chorion, owner of the expanding Tiger Tiger chain, on Monday announced like-for-like sales up 18%.

Other stores due to report this week on Christmas trade include Selfridges, House of Fraser and consumer electronics retailer, Dixons Group.

The British Retail Consortium is also about to issue its latest monthly sales report.

The Bank of England's monetary policy committee meets on Wednesday and Thursday for its monthly session to decide on interest rates.

Business leaders have called on the committee to take a lead from the US central bank, the Federal Reserve, which cut interest rates in a surprise move last week amid fears of an American recession.

Company revival

Hamleys' chairman Simon Burke credited a store refit for much of the increase in sales at the Regent Street shop, where trade in October and November suffered because of the fuel crisis and "weather difficulties".

Trading figures timetable
Monday: British Retail Consortium
Tuesday: Selfridges, TH Hughes
Wednesday: Dixons (half year results)
Thursday: Great Universal Stores, Next, House of Fraser
Friday: Laura Ashley
Next week: Boots, Marks & Spencer, Kingfisher, Arcadia

He also said he was "delighted with the progress" made by the firm's home sales division, which operates through catalogues, the telephone and the internet.

The figures follow a troubled period for Hamleys, which scraped into profit for 1999-2000, and in July announced it had entered talks with a potential bidder.

Mr Burke said: "These successes show that we have put in place a platform for renewed growth at the group."

PlayStation prospects

Electronics Boutique said brisk trade in the Who Wants to be a Millionaire and WWF Smackdown 2 games helped the retailer achieve like-for-like sales growth of 15% last month, compared with December 1999.

Sales of Sony's Playstation 2 console would support further growth, the company said.

"The advent of PlayStation 2 is a mouthwatering prospect," chairman Peter Lewis said.

In the City, shares in Electronics Boutique closed 4.75p higher at 60.75p on Monday.

Hamleys shares closed 2.5p up at 143.5p.

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See also:

04 Jul 00 | Business
Hamleys talks fail
27 Dec 00 | Business
Mixed reports on sales
29 Nov 00 | Business
Spending on presents to rise
01 Nov 00 | Business
Hamleys breaks into profit
12 Apr 99 | The Company File
Rival snaps up Game
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