UK premium food retailers report bumper Christmas sales

By Leah Vyse

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Retailing

Marks & Spencer and Waitrose have both posted healthy Christmas
sales figures reflecting the upsurge in premium retailing in the
UK.

Marks & Spencer reported its best Christmas in three years - with food sales for the quarter up by 7.9 per cent on the previous quarter, 5.1 per cent higher than the same period in 2004.

"We have made progress across all areas of the business through better buying, better values and tight control of inventory."

"Our Food business had a strong Christmas reflecting the quality and innovation of our ranges."​ claimed the retailer in its third quarter trading statement.

The turnaround follows two years of falling festive sales and has resulted in a rise in the profit forecast by the City for the year by £10million (€14m) to £730m.

Fellow UK retailer Waitrose also saw its sales for the seven week period to 7 January 2006 increase by 9.5 per cent on the prior period. While like-for-like sales exceeded all expectations rising by 6.2 per cent.

Steven Esom, managing director at Waitrose, said in a company statement: "These strong results in a competitive trading environment reflect the efforts we have put into meeting customer demand - from selecting the right products to offering the high standard of service that customers expect in our branches."

"Strong performances in established branches have been coupled with exceptional results in new geographic areas for the Waitrose brand."

Analysts predict that while Waitrose, which has 173 stores throughout the UK, normally benefits from consumers "trading up" their grocery shopping at Christmas, such a growth indicates the retailer could increase its market share.

"Our figures show that shoppers have been seeking out high quality produce and, once again, we have seen significant numbers of customers trading up to Waitrose over Christmas and New Year. We are confident that many of these new customers will be making return visits in the coming weeks and months,"​ Esom added.

Chief executive at Marks & Spencer, Stuart Rose, said its food sales have also been boosted by the retailer's TV advertising, dubbing 2005 as "the year of the chocolate pudding" after the advert for its melting chocolate dessert resulted in a jump in sales.

Also the retailer's introduction of its Simply Food concept at BP forecourts in 2005 continued to drive sales. Again this was attributed to the success of an advertising campaign highlighting the quality and innovation of its product range.

Related topics: Market Trends

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