The canny Alistair McGeorge looks to be making some progress in turning around fashion group New Look.

The canny Alistair McGeorge looks to be making some progress in turning around fashion group New Look.

The retailer – labelled as a ‘zombie’ company by some because of the debt it labours under and consequent dependence on lenders – has been subject to speculation about its future.

Only last month New Look wrote to suppliers to reassure them after gossip that a CVA was on the cards.

Tuesday’s interims confirmed an already trailed 25% rise in EBITDA, and indicated progress is being made. The amount of markdown has been cut, as have operating costs, and there has been a renegotiation of some debt.

But the most encouraging news was that New Look is poised to enter a new phase of recovery marked by a return to sales growth, and executive chairman McGeorge said New Look is now showing a year-on-year rise in revenues.

Given the torrid time New Look had last year, some might say sales growth should be showing through. But in a year that has brought so many high-profile retail casualties, McGeorge looks as if he has navigated stormy conditions pretty well. The retailer may not be home and dry quite yet, but the success so far of McGeorge’s strategy means there are no doubt fewer outbreaks of cold sweat among the retailer’s private equity backers, Apax and Permira.

A tastier Christmas pudding

The fight for Christmas spend will be as fierce as ever this year, but broker Peel Hunt expects sector outperformance.

Partly that is because consumers have had some cash boosts, including £550m a month paid out in PPI claims. That, says the broker, represents 2% to 3% of annualised non-food sales – “a meaningful fillip to spending power”.

Peel Hunt believes there are likely to be “fairly widespread upgrades over peak trading” from which retailers as diverse as Halfords and Home Retail may benefit.

The proof of the Christmas pudding will be in the eating, but perhaps it will be more tasty than anticipated.