Marks & Spencer and Matalan shocked retailers on Wednesday as they posted dismal Christmas trading figures.
M&S's numbers contrasted sharply with trends at John Lewis Partnership, which posted more strong trading - up 6 per cent year on year in the week to last Saturday.
M&S chief executive Roger Holmes accepted that mistakes by M&S were big factors in the Christmas disappointment. He dismissed the season's knitwear collection as 'too samey and too safe'.
He said: 'Within clothing, the issue can be largely isolated to knitwear, suiting and coats, which were impacted by ranging issues and exacerbated by the weather.' M&S head of clothing David Norgrove will leave after clothing like-for-likes fell 3 per cent over Christmas.
Matalan issued its second profit warning in two months after like-for-like sales slumped 5 per cent over Christmas. Chief executive John King warned of further discounting and blamed the ferocity of competition, rather than simply Matalan's offer, for his problems.
Other clothing retailers also suffered. For the 23 weeks to January 4, JJB Sports' like-for-likes fell 3.5 per cent. Finance director David Greenwood thought the company's poor seasonal sales were partly self-inflicted.
'The market moved very quickly into the value-for-money sector and we didn't move quick enough.'
JJB plans to ramp up its own-brand offer. Competitor John David managed a 3.7 per cent like-for-like rise.
Seymour Pierce analyst Rhys Williams said: 'The trading environment simply widened the disparity between companies that were performing on target and those below par.'
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