House of Fraser reports festive slump in sales

Jenners Store, Princes Street.
Jenners Store, Princes Street.
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The company behind one of Scotland’s most iconic department stores has reported sales falling by 2.9 per cent un the run up to Christmas.

Department store chain House of Fraser, who also owns Jenners, became the latest retailer to reveal festive trading woesover the festive period.

The embattled group - which revealed it was asking landlords to cut some of its rents last week - said the sales fall over the crucial six weeks to December 23 came as it held off from heavy discounting outside of Black Friday.

Online sales tumbled 7.5 per cent as it continued to come under pressure after the recent launch of a new web platform.

READ MORE: House of Fraser reportedly asks landlords to slash rent bill

But chairman Frank Slevin insisted it was a “credible performance” in a difficult retail market.

Close rival Debenhams warned over profits last week after tough trading, while figures also out on Thursday from Marks & Spencer showed a steep fall in clothing and home sales, although it blamed this on an unusually warm October.

House of Fraser said Black Friday was more successful for the chain, with sales over the promotional event in November up 0.8 per cent in stores and within 1 per cent of last year’s record performance online.

READ MORE: Next enjoys unexpected online boost to festive sales

It added that trading since December 23 has been mixed following “disappointing” sales in the week after Christmas, although it has halted sales declines in store and online since New Year’s Day.

Alex Williamson, chief executive of House of Fraser, said: “We are a business in transition; our focus is on driving profitability rather than chasing revenue at any cost.

“We are not a business determined to sell everything to everyone at any price.”

READ MORE: Iconic Frasers’ Princes Street store goes on the market

He said turnaround efforts were continuing “at pace” and added its online offering was now “back on track” after recent disruption.

It said last Friday it was seeking a reduction in some of its rents, while also overhauling its supplier base as part of moves to cut costs.

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