British consumer spending during the Christmas period remained better than expected at most major retail groups, bringing some relief to an industry that feared an escalating crisis around the cost of living would hit the main holiday season.
However, the Official UK retail figures for December for the entire sector showed a much weaker picture.
The British branch of the German discount supermarket group Aldi said that sales had increased by 26% in December compared to the previous year. It highlighted strong growth in fresh meat sales, with fresh poultry and pork both up more than 28%. The British branch of the German discounter Lidl reports that sales increased by 24.5% in the four weeks to December 25 compared to the previous year.
Tesco reported a better-than-expected increase of 4.3% in underlying sales in the UK in the quarter to November 26, and an increase of 7.2% in the six weeks to January 7.
ASOS recorded a 3% drop in revenue in the four months to the end of December. In Britain, its largest market, sales fell by 8% due to weak consumer confidence, problems with Christmas deliveries and a difficult comparison with last year.
Retailer B & M said similar sales increased 6.4% in its main Christmas quarter, showing shoppers were looking for low-cost options while struggling with the cost of living.
Dunelm, which sells furniture ranging from pillows and bedding to kitchen appliances, said total sales over the 13 weeks to December 31 were 18% higher than in the same period a year ago.
Fast food chain Greggs said its festive pastries, mince pies and salted caramel lattes, along with breakfast and lunch offerings, caught on with the tight Christmas crowd, driving similar sales up 18.2% in the last quarter.
Halfords posted total revenue growth of 21.7% for the fiscal third quarter, the 13-week period ending December 31, but lowered its annual profit forecast due to weaker demand for bicycles.
JD Sports reported total revenue growth of more than 20% in the six weeks to December 31. Online fashion retailer Boohoo reports an 11% drop in sales in the main Christmas period, the four months to the end of December.
The health and beauty products retailer Boots UK said its retail sales increased by around 15% in December from a year earlier, with an emphasis on strong sales in the gifts and perfumes categories.
Currys said like-for-like sales from its UK and Irish operations fell 5% in the 10 weeks to January 7, partly due to high sales over the past two pandemic-hit years, but also weak demand for computers and televisions.
Marks & Spencer posted quarterly growth of 6.3% in food sales on a similar basis and an 8.6% increase in clothing and household goods sales. British clothing retailer Next exceeded expectations with a 4.8% increase in sales at full prices in the nine weeks to December 30, highlighting the stimulus of a December cold snap that sent jackets flying off the shelves. Ocado Retail, a 50/50 joint venture of Ocado Group and Marks & Spencer, said sales had increased 15% in the five days before Christmas. Supermarket chain Sainsbury’s posted a 5.9% increase in underlying sales for the Christmas quarter.