Blog: Leonie BarrieSnow business for retailers

Leonie Barrie | 17 January 2011

A clutch of the UK's largest clothing retailers last week revealed how they had performed over the Christmas period, when the country saw some of its worst weather for 20 years. And not surprisingly, there were clear winners and losers.

Top of the festive shop was Sainsbury's, which had a great Christmas, overtaking Asda as the UK's number two supermarket chain. Like-for-likes in the third quarter increased 3.6%, while total sales rose 6%.

Marks & Spencer was badly affected by the winter weather - the company reckons it took a GBP50-55m hit on sales - but buoyant clothing sales rescued the situation, moving up 4.7% in the third quarter thanks to a strong consumer appetite for cashmere, knitwear, boots and coats.

And the biggest of all the UK retailers, Tesco, saw a after a lacklustre Christmas during which UK like-for-like sales inched up only 0.6%. The gloss to its figures - group sales were up by 7.6% - was supplied by the company's international activities, which posted a sales hike of 14.2%, and 24.2% for Asia alone.

For European footwear retailers and importers, good news is imminent after the European Confederation of the Footwear Industry (CEC) confirmed to just-style that it will not seek a renewal of European Union (EU) anti-dumping duties on Chinese and Vietnamese shoe imports. These tariffs are set to expire on 31 March unless there are calls for the European Commission to investigate their extension.

Having been criticised for being slow to cash in on the potential of international expansion, US budget retailer Target Corp is now making up for lost time with a CAD1.825bn (US$1.83bn) swoop on Canadian discount chain Zellers. The deal will see the US retail giant take control of up to 220 stores operated by Zellers, a subsidiary of Hudson's Bay Co, with up to 150 of these stores being converted to the Target nameplate by 2014.

US chemicals group DuPont has tabled a $5.8bn bid for Danish food ingredients and biofuels group Danisco - in a move that will also give it control of Genencor, which makes a range of enzymes for textile pre-treatment and finishing. While the main focus of the deal is on food and fuel technologies, Genencor offers the chance to tap into demand for processing products that help reduce environmental impact.

And on the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake that killed nearly 300,000 people and left millions homeless in Haiti, efforts to get the country back on its feet took another step forward. Leading South Korean garment maker Sae-A Trading has pledged to invest $70m in a new factory that will provide jobs for 20,000 Haitian workers. The agreement is seen as a crucial step in helping to break Haiti's dependence on foreign aid.


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