British department store chain House of Fraser revealed an anticipated 7.2 per cent rise in Christmas sales on Thursday and said it was optimistic consumers would continue splashing the cash during 2002.

The high street retailer said total sales were up 9.6 per cent during the seven week Christmas trading period when compared to the previous year and that gross profit margins kept growing, driven by reduced discounting levels.

The group also recorded a 4.7 per cent increase in like-for-like sales for the 23 weeks to January 5, lower than analysts' estimates of about six per cent.

Commenting on the results, House of Fraser chief executive, John Coleman, said: "The significant sales growth over the Christmas period maintains the very strong trading performance House of Fraser has achieved throughout the current financial year to date."