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Tuesday, 16 January, 2001, 07:46 GMT
Sales up at Debenhams and Safeway
safeway store
Safeway has shown strong sales performance
Debenhams and Safeway have reported record sales for the Christmas period, among a string of key High Street announcements.

Safeway, which has been relaunched as a discount retailer, reported sales up 5.9% on a like-for-like basis in the last three months of the year.

These impressive trading figures were enough to send the share price up 7p at 307p at close of trade.

A trolleyload of results
Debenhams up 7%
Safeway up 5.9%
Kingfisher up 4.5%
Oasis up 1%
Somerfield down 1.1%
Boots down 5%

And Debenhams, which has modernised stores and boosted internet operations, announced like-for-like sales up 7% in the six weeks to Christmas eve.

And over the longer trading period of the 20 weeks to 13 January, sales were still up by a healthy 5.9%, with particularly strong growth in clothing and gifts.

Also on Tuesday, Kingfisher, owner of chains such as Comet, B&Q and Woolworth, reported like-for-like sales up 4.5%.

But the overall growth, boosted by DIY sales, hid a modest performance at Woolworth, where trade rose 1.8%.

But a 4.5% increase in sales was not enough to impress the City - at one point shares lost 12% of their market value, and closed to end the day down 48p at 442p.

Somerfield

Struggling UK supermarket chain Somerfield said it had begun to see weekly sales stabilize, but still this was not enough for the company to avoid reporting a pre-tax loss of 21.7m in the 28 weeks to 11 November.

This compared to a 45.6m profit a year earlier.

The company said like-for-like sales in the first eight weeks of the second half - covering the Christmas and New Year period - fell 1.1% in the group as a whole.

This brokedown as a 0.3% growth in sales in its Somerfield supermarkets but a 3.2% drop in its cut-price chain Kwik Save.

John von Spreckelsen, executive chairman of the grocer, said it would "take time to return to a healthy level of profitability" but that the recovery was "becoming more evident".

Still, that was enough for a favourable reaction from the market - the shares ended the day up 4.75p at 93p.

Boots

And Boots, the flagship chemists chain, which has recently stamped its brand on new areas of business, announced a 5% drop in sales during the 13 weeks to 30 December.

The slide was blamed on the strategic switch from selling leisure goods - products such as music, homeware and clocks - and expanding into new areas like opening dentistry and chiropody outlets within its stores.

Although the company did report that like-for-like sales of its health and beauty products were up 2.1% in the 13 weeks to 20 December "despite the effect of a much lower incidence of colds and flu".

These solid sales in core health and beauty product ranges were enough to put an upward pressure on the share price. It rose an impressive 16p to 565p during midday trade, although by close it had fallen to end up 4p to 553p.

Fashion retailers

Oasis, the UK fashion chain, also issued a profits warning for the year ending January 2001.

The company said like-for-like sales in the six weeks to 6 January were up 1%, but fell by 2% in the 23 weeks to that date.

And discount clothes chain New Look said like-for-like sales for the fourth months to 13 January were ahead by just 0.3%.

New Look ended the day off 4p at 71p.

But Oasis rose marginally at the close of trade, up 0.5p to 62.5p, having fallen 5% during the day.

The announcements come towards the end of the key Christmas trading reporting period, which is seen not just as an indicator of the health of the High Street, but of the UK economy in general.

Stores reporting strong sales have included Tesco, Hamleys and House of Fraser.

But Matalan and Dixons have been among stores disappointing the city, with Body Shop shares slumping last week after the ethical retailer revealed a 2% drop in sales.

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See also:

23 Nov 00 | Business
Safeway gains a million shoppers
17 Oct 00 | Business
Profits slip at Debenhams
04 Jun 00 | Business
Boots creates 1,500 jobs
15 Jan 01 | Business
Kingfisher receives Superdrug offers
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