Department store chain House of Fraser has enjoyed a 34.2% net sales rise for the 6-week period ended 7 January, driven by the acquisitions of Jenners and Beatties and new store openings.

Same-store sales were up 7.7% during the same period.

The company commented: "We are particularly pleased to see strong sales growth in high-margin areas such as fashion accessories and men's wear."

For the 23 weeks to 7 January 2006, same-store sales were down 3.6% on the previous year and total sales for the same period were 18.1% ahead of the previous year. 

The recent performance marks a welcome improvement for the business from its interim trading announcement in September 2005, when same-store sales had fallen 6.8%.

Jenners has now been fully integrated into the group and the integration of Beatties is proceeding in accordance with plans, House of Fraser said. The profit contributions from both of the acquired businesses are in line with our expectations.

The company's directors estimate that the gross margin rate for the half to date is ahead of last year, with a well-managed promotional programme in the run up to Christmas. On a like-for-like basis, stock is below last year's level, with 20% less old season stock.

Chief executive John Coleman said: "Whilst the retail environment has clearly been very challenging, we are pleased with the group's performance in the vital Christmas trading period".

He continued: "A disciplined approach to promotional activity and stock management has also enabled us to improve gross margins during the second half.

"The last year has been a period of significant progress across the group, with the acquisitions of Jenners and Beatties and new store openings in Norwich, Maidstone and Dublin."

Coleman added: "We expect trading conditions to be difficult for at least the first half of 2006 and, in spite of our continuing focus on costs, we expect some additional cost pressures in the next twelve months."