Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

House of Fraser's festive sales rise hits 8.6%

Shoppers have made it a bumper Christmas for House of Fraser

House of Fraser's Belfast customers have indulged in a spending spree as the store laid claim to the second-highest jump in festive sales of 60 stores in the UK and Ireland.

The good news for its Belfast operation was revealed in a trading update heralding HoF's best-ever festive performance – also giving the first firm indication of how Northern Ireland's retailers fared over the crucial Christmas period.

Glasgow led the way with a 10.6% sales bounce, with Belfast's Victoria Square unit coming second place with an 8.6% boost.

The high-end department store's flagship in London's Oxford Street was the third best performer, recording a 6.9% jump in sales. Overall, store sales at its 59 UK shops, plus one in Dublin's Dundrum Shopping Centre, were up 3% in the three weeks to December 28. Its website had a record-breaking 57.7% rise.

Chief executive John King said the company was "delighted with our Christmas trading.

"As we expected, the peak Christmas trading came late – however, it was the best we have ever recorded."

The business joins retailer John Lewis in reporting record-breaking Yuletide sales – but their buoyancy contrasts with a downbeat mood at Debenhams, which this week issued a shock profits warning after disappointing festive trade.

No-one from Debenhams was available to comment on how its store in Belfast or its four other shops in the province had performed. But a statement from Rushmere Shopping Centre in Craigavon said sales at its anchor Debenhams had "spiked" in the three days to Christmas.

Debenhams, the bigger of the two businesses, has traded from Belfast's CastleCourt Shopping Centre since it opened in 1990. However, House of Fraser anchors the newer Victoria Square Shopping Centre, which opened in 2008.

CastleCourt director Paul McMahon said its pre-Christmas period had been "strong" and its Boxing Day and New Year sales were now in full flow.

"This has attracted increased numbers of shoppers keen to make the most of discountsand has seen footfall numbers up compared to the same period last year.

"With sales set to continue and further discounts expected from many retailers, footfall figures are likely to remain strong giving stores a positive start to 2014."

FACTFILE

Debenhams, which has 240 stores in 28 countries and dates back to the 1770s, warned on Tuesday that profits were expected to fall by as much as 26% due to its failure to entice a rush of shoppers in the days leading up to Christmas. The news sparked a 12% shares slide – and prompted yesterday's resignation of its finance boss Simon Herrick. Debenhams' disappointment contrasts with celebration at House of Fraser, which has 60 stores in the UK and Ireland. It was founded in Scotland in 1849 and recently emerged as a takeover target for French retailer, Galeries Lafayette.

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