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The High Street – Still Alive And Kicking But Online Threat Grows

Marks & Spencer MKS gives a very brief summary of its trading for the 13 weeks to the 31st December. Group sales rose by 5.9% on a reported basis. Food did well with a rise of 5.6% or 0.6% on a like for like basis and  continuing to increase its market share. Sales in clothing and home did even better on a like for like basis with a rise of 2.3%. Total like for like sales were up by 1.3%. The high street may still be a battleground but at least Marks emerged unscathed from the most important trading period of the year.

Tesco TSCO claims its first increase in market share since 2011 following strong and sustained progress in its 3rd quarter, covering the 13 weeks to the 26th November, which also produced the 8th consecutive quarter of volume growth. Over the 6 weeks to the 7th January the rise in like for like sales continued with growth of 0.3%, the UK being particularly strong with a rise of 0.7%. Clothes and toys produced over all sales rises of 4.3% and 8.5% respectively. The one weak point was International which produced like for like falls in both the 3rd quarter and  over the 6 week Xmas period.

Mothercare MTC showed a return to growth in the UK for the 13 weeks to 7th January with a 1% rise in like for like sales but International sales still has problems with a total fall of 6% in constant currency terms, the day being saved by currency fluctuations which turned that into a rise of 13% in real terms. Online growth was particularly strong with a rise of 5.5% taking online’s percentage of total sales up to some 40% of total sales. Perhaps this is an indication of the future of retailing.

Debenhams DEB Is pleased with what it claims to be a resilient performance, with like for like sales over the 18 weeks to 7th January up by 3.5% or 0.5% on a constant currency basis. Online sales were strong with a rise of 13,9% taking online’s growth over 2 years to more than 25%. The 7 week Xmas period to 7th January produced like for like growth of 5% or 1.7% on a constant currency basis.

ASOS ASC provides more evidence of the growing power of online retailing with growth which dwarfs that of the high street retailers. Total group revenue rose by 30% on a constant currency basis for the 4 months to the end of December. The UK looked positively pedestrian against this with a rise of only 18%, which ASOS nonetheless claims is a strong performance in a more promotional market.

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Mothercare Impacted By Unseasonable Weather.

Mothercare MTC Senior management seems not to understand one of the basic facts of life about the UK, namely that it does not have a climate, it has weather and for much of the year its weather is unseasonable, thoughtlessly providing mini heat waves in February, snow in May and year round excuses for management’s failures.

So MTC  goes unthinkingly into the excuses drawer and plucks out unseasonable weather as having impacted it during the quarter to 9th July, when UK sales fell by 2.1% although on a like for like basis they rose by 1.2% after allowing for closures. International sales in actual currencies rose by 5.1% and worldwide sales by 2.7%, after an increase of 2.3% in space.  As for the future, MTC says that its vision is clear, except of course when it is foggy in summer.

Supergroup SGP is paying a a final special dividend of 20p per share, on top of the full ordinary dividend  of 23.2p after a year of significant progress in which  revenue rose by 21%, underlying profit before tax by 16.3% and basic earnings per share by 21.8%. The company exudes with confidence for the future.

Dart DTG is increasing its final dividend from 2.25p. per share to 3.10p making an increase for the full year of 33%. Profiut before tax soared by 159%, basic earnings per share by 169% and group operating profit by 216%

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Mothercare Delivering at Last

Mothercare MTC The turnround in the UK is continuing apace with group underlying profit before tax up by 51% and statutory profit before tax of £9.7m, being the first after four years of losses.  Like for like UK sales rose by 3.6%

Internationally the picture is much blacker and having set the UK on a path to growth, the company is now turning its attention to the problems there and intends to export the lessons it has learned at home to bring recovery and profits back to the international side of the business. The aim is to become world leader in its markets and it is many a long year since anybody at Mothercare dared to even dream of that.

Thomas Cook Group TCG claims it  has fundamentally changed its attitude to its customers. Not before time many would say. This must be one of the best pieces of news to come out of the travel industry for years where customers seem to be regarded as a necessary evil.

It claims that group revenue for the half year to the end of March rose slightly whereas the figures seem to show that it actually fell – a minor matter in the world of TCG. Both operating loss and loss before tax showed good falls of 13% and 15% respectively.  excluding Turkey, summer bookings are up by 6%  or if you include Turkey they are down by 5% overall. Bookings for Spain are strong and the US is leading the way with a rose of 29%

Shanks Group SKS. Tough market conditions have not prevented both revenue and profit growth for the year to the end of March. The weak spot was the municipal division which was impacted by unspecified headwinds with the result that trading profit in that division was down 15%.

Trading profit rose by 4% and last years loss of £12.4m was turned into an operating profit of £9.8m and the previous basic loss per share of 4.6p was reduced to 1p. The loss after tax has been substantially reduced from £18.2m to a more acceptable £4m.  The company claims it has the vision, strategy and organisation, to deliver growth.

Mitchells & Butler MAB claims strong earnings growth for the half year to 9th April, with profit before tax growing to £83m from last years £75m. and earnings per share up from 14.4p to 18.4p.  Total revenue, however, was down by 1.5% and the company admits that there is much to do for it to acclerate its trading performance.

National Grid NG has had a strong year and is raising its dividend by 1.1%. Operating profit for the year to the end of March rose by 6%. profit before tax by 9% and earnings per share by 10%.

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Is Tesco The Xmas Winner ?

Tesco (TSCO) enjoyed a strong Xmas and perhaps surprised many of the pundits, not to to say the opposition, with all round growth as sales rose both at home and abroad. Like for like group sales for the 6 weeks to 9th January rose by 2.1%, even UK like for like sales were up 1.3% and international led the way with a rise of 4.1%.

Home Retail Group HOME admits to a mixed performance over the 18 weeks to the 2nd January but Argos sales rose 0.9% despite reduced store footfall on the high street.  Homebase like for like sales were up by 5% but that figure is rather meaningless because total sales fell by 4% as a result of the aggressive store closure plan.

Profit before tax for the year to the end of February is expected to be at the bottom end of market expectations.

Mothercare MTC had a fairly disastrous third quarter on the international front, reflecting economic and currency headwinds for which management is in no way to blame. International sales were down 9.5% in actual currency, over the 13 weeks to the 9th January, whilst UK like for like sales rose by 4.2% following weeding out of weaker stores. UK online won the day with a rise of 11%.

Group worldwide sales fell by 5.5%, double the fall in the previous quarter. Mothercare was another store to get its weather forecasting wrong, so blames the unseasonably wamr weather for having a lot of unsold stock left over for the sales.

Associated Brtish Foods ABF saw Primark sales up by 7% over 16 weeks to 2nd January and group revenue up by 3%.

So in the end it looks like the surprise winner will have been Tesco.  It remains to be seen if Tesco can now start regaining market share and clamber its way back up to being number one.

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