Coronavirus was undoubtedly the Grinch who stole Christmas, and this week will bring an avalanche of business figures revealing how well UK retailers have navigated what the Marks & Spencer chief executive calls “near impossible trading conditions”.
The setting was set on stage last week by updates from Morrisons and Sainsbury’s supermarkets, which like other ‘essential’ retailers have thrived in locked-down Britain. For old non-essential retailers like M&S, where clothing sales have fallen by a quarter, figures from its Christmas trade report showed that without your stores open, you needed a damn good website – like Next, which helped the company almost match its 2019 sales.
The eclectic trio of Games Workshop, JD Sports and Hut Group will resume the trade update action on Tuesday, all three likely to tell a positive story for this important festive time. Although JD’s sales were affected by store closings, she traded well online and benefited from a surging demand for casual wear and sneakers.
Games Workshop and The Hut, which are behind websites like Lookfantastic, took advantage of people pursuing their hobbies while being stuck at home, whether painting orcs or fingernails.
The Hut is on a roll: its stocks have gained ground since going public in September. Games Workshop, best known for its Warhammer tabletop game franchise, has been around longer and is expected to bring in a profit of as much as £ 90million, up from £ 59million last year, according to the Share Center.
Tesco, which runs a group of at least six retailers, including Primark, reporting Thursday, is another likely winner. Sainsbury’s – which wowed the city with a £ 60million profit increase – and Morrisons have already provided better-than-expected figures.
The expansion of Tesco’s home delivery service will have contributed to its performance. However, the latest figures from Kantar analysts show the UK’s largest retailer losing market share, with no-frills chains Lidl and Iceland among the top performers in the annual battle to sell turkeys and cabbages. from Brussels.
The news from Primark will likely be less positive. The owner of the discounted fashion chain, Associated British Foods, warned on New Years Eve that Primark would miss an additional £ 220million in revenue as its stores were forced to close again. When open, Primark stores have seen phenomenal sales, but without a website to sell, the business is crippled without its stores.
Primark’s fortunes will likely contrast with that of Asos, the clothing website for teens and twenties, which has benefited from a nifty delivery network able to meet demand for items ranging from stretchy leggings to face cream. Earlier this year, the company struggled to secure sufficient stock of certain items, such was the unexpected demand: we’ll see if this affected sales in December.
Shore Capital analyst Clive Black said 2020 was a “twisted” Christmas rather than a merry Christmas for the streets. Among the winners to date, the City had expected the grocers to do well but Sainsbury’s had pulled the “rabbit out of the hat”.
“Online retailers will have done very well,” says Black. “It was the non-essential in-store retailers that absolutely had their legs removed. You have seen all the issues regarding Arcadia, Debenhams and Edinburgh Woolen Mill [which have all entered administration]. For non-essential in-store retailers, 2020 has been a year-long calamity. “