Festive cheer for House of Fraser

House of Fraser cheered its best ever Christmas trading, as sales rose 7.3% after a last-minute rush to stores and a record increase in web takings.

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House of Fraser has cheered its best ever Christmas trading.

House of Fraser cheered its best ever Christmas trading, as sales rose 7.3% after a last-minute rush to stores and a record increase in web takings.

The department store was among retailers that embarked on a discounting spree as it reduced selected lines by 50% in the festive season.

But its trading update for the period showed the promotions had failed to dent profit margins, which were up sharply.

Chief executive John King said: "We are delighted with our Christmas trading and are pleased to report another record performance despite a more competitive environment.

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

The bright picture is in marked contrast to the woes of rival Debenhams, whose finance chief has quit days after it issued a profits warning following a disappointing performance over the crucial period.

House of Fraser said like-for-like sales for the first nine weeks of the fourth quarter were up 4.3% and for the three weeks to December 28 improved by 7.3% to achieve the best-ever Christmas performance.

Store sales were up 3% over the festive three weeks, with the flagship site in London's Oxford Street improving by 6.9%, Belfast up 8.3% and Glasgow improving 10.6%, while online saw a record-breaking 57.7% rise.

Mr King said the performance demonstrated the success of the retailer's strategy to improve the online offering, develop own brands and invest in stores.

He said the sales and profits margin performance, together with a focus on efficiencies, put House of Fraser on course to deliver a rise in full-year earnings.

The retailer has 61 stores in the UK and Ireland.

Last month, it was reported to be in talks to be acquired by the French department store chain Galeries Lafayette for a price tag of at least £450 million.