UK Retail : House of Fraser records record annual growth

Department store House of Fraser (HOF) has announced that like-for-like sales increased at record levels at 3.3 per cent to £1.2 billion over the last full year as the group has achieved growth across all categories, according to figures released last week.

In the 52 weeks ended January 26th 2013, adjusted EBITDA rose 4.3 per cent to £61.1 million while the retailer accrued its largest ever gross profit, up £4.7 million to £403.8 million

This update comes during further news of investment in its multichannel operations which have seen the retailer vastly improve its website, create a broader variety of products and a much more mature selection of delivery possibilities. This has assisted sales online to be boosted 53 per cent and accounted for 10.9 per cent of total sales last year.

In-store refurbishment has continued over the year, with focus notably at HOF’s Oxford Street flagship on retail experience, something this blog has talked around many times. The retailer themselves have noted that this investment in-stores has been reflected in positive performances.

HOF’s debts are down £6.2 million to £157.2 million and there seems to be interest from a number of buyers, it is said that HOF held talks last year with Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct firm and it has been widely reported that Qatari investors have held talks about making a bid for department store chain.

In stark contrast, Marks & Spencer announced last week that it had underwent a 4.1 per cent fall in like-fore like sales of general merchandise in the year to March 30 as it lost sales in the ever important womenswear sub-market. The UK’s chief clothing chain posted a 5.8 per cent fall in underlying pre-tax profit to £665.2m.

Further news this week from Marks & Spencer which has put a halt on all new clothing stores in the UK. With its lowest pre-tax profit in eight years at £564m, down from £658m a year ago, they announced that they would add no extra space for general merchandise in the UK from 2016 and would instead focus on its digital operations. M&S, which has 766 stores in the UK, believes it will have reached saturation in the country by 2016 as more customers shop online.

John Lewis has enjoyed success in the last week also as weather conditions meant that they saw 8.8 per cent increase in sales last week, with its Glasgow store among the best performers.

While its Tamworth store in Staffordshire saw the biggest increase – of 16.5 per cent – John Lewis said its Glasgow branch “was also on fine form, up 15.1 per cent”. There was also success in other Scottish stores as; takings in Edinburgh grew 4.7 per cent, while its Aberdeen store gained 0.5 per cent.