Tesco Triumphs in Christmas Trading as Card Factory Falters

Thursday, January 10: Markets stuttered overnight in Asia, though the FTSE 100(+0.52%) managed to eke out a gain despite any specific news with respect to US-China talks.

Tesco outperformed the market with a 2.2% increase in sales as the British Retail Consortium declared that total retail sales were flat for the month of December and hailed it the worst Christmas for UK businesses in a decade.

Tesco(+2.46%) beat analyst forecasts of 1-1.5%with its reported 2.2% increase in LFL sales as it outperformed the market in food, clothing and general merchandise and its larger competitors in the shape of Sainsbury’s(-1.1%) and Morrisons(+0.6%) on the same basis. However, data earlier in the week was indicative that all big four grocers lost share to discounters Aldi & Lidl. John Lewis also reported positive sales growth of 1.4% over the prior year for the seven week Christmas period, though warned that the 83,000 partners may not receive their customary partnership bonus as a matter of business prudence. The last time John Lewis partners forewent a bonus was in 1953, during the post-war rationing period. Gross LFLs at its Waitrose supermarkets came in 0.3% higher than last year, whilst the grocer’s online sales were 12.8% higher over the prior period.

Card Factory(-12.89%) proved to be the latest listed victim of aforementioned weakness as it announced a marginal fall in overall LFL sales and outlined flat EBITDA guidance for the impending 2020 financial year. The card retailer saw revenues increase 3.4% for the 11 months to December 31(vs. 5.9% in the prior period) though store LFLs fell -0.5% as online operations presided over a 59% increase in sales(+66% for the latter period). Overall LFLs came in marginally negative at -0.1% as falling footfall on the high street hit the core business, with the damage partially mitigated by strong online performance(albeit from a low base). The Group will face cost inflation by way of National Living Wage increases and higher raw materials import costs, both of which will suppress profit performance in the new financial year.

At the close European equities were mixed, with the FTSE 100 +0.52%, the CAC 40 -0.16% and the DAX 30 +0.26%.

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