The 2020 Christmas holiday season presented British retailers with a unique challenge as they navigated strict COVID-19 containment measures and prepared for Britain’s departure from the European Union.
The United Kingdom is struggling to contain a new, fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus, while coming to terms with Britain’s new trading relationship with the European Union following its departure from the bloc.
As a new national lockdown has begun and coronavirus vaccines are rolled out, here is how some of Britain’s retailers are faring, with the latest news first:
MARKS & SPENCER
M&S reported another big fall in sales of clothing and homeware in the three months leading up to Christmas, as restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus hit demand and closed stores.
PETS AT HOME
The pet supplies retailer raised its pretax profit forecast for the second time in five months after strong Christmas sales, lifting its shares higher.
The pub operator said it expects pubs to be closed at least until March as part of the national lockdown imposed earlier this week, with some curbs to remain even after businesses are allowed to reopen.
The supermarket group raised its annual profit forecast as it reported strong trading in the Christmas quarter when COVID-19 restrictions kept people eating and drinking at home.
The discount retailer reported a 22.5% jump in holiday quarter sales and announced a special pidend, benefiting from low prices and stores that remained open during lockdowns.
The fashion retailer reported a 58% plunge in store sales for seven weeks that included the holiday season and warned of a hit of up to 18 million pounds ($24.5 million) if new COVID-19 curbs continued.
MITCHELLS & BUTLERS
The company said it was exploring an equity capital raising, as a new national lockdown shut the pub operator’s sites, adding no decision had been made yet on its timing, size or terms.
The baker and fast food retailer has slowed the sales decline caused by the pandemic but does not expect profits to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2022 at the earliest.
The tile retailer said the new lockdown in England, which has shut the company’s stores for browsing, is expected to hit sales and margins.
Strong sales of champagne and whole salmon helped the supermarket group outpace bigger rivals over Christmas as Britons made up for pandemic-related restrictions on pubs and restaurants by treating themselves at home.
The British fashion retailer soundly beat its forecast for Christmas sales despite COVID-19 restrictions closing stores in November and the final shopping days of December, resulting in another upgrade to underlying profit guidance.
The British arm of the German discount supermarket group said sales rose 10.6% year on year in the four weeks to Dec. 24, with a spike in demand for premium products helping to deliver a record Christmas performance.
ASSOCIATED BRITISH FOODS
The Primark owner said that tougher lockdown measures in Britain and Ireland would result in an estimated sales loss of 650 million pounds this financial year, up from its previous estimate of 430 million pounds.