Why Tesco investors might take comfort from the strong share price performance last year of Signet, Dixons Carphone and WHSmith.

Tinsel, turkey and merriment may be a fading memory as trading updates come under cool January scrutiny but, as the year turns, it’s clear some retailers played Santa for investors.

The top-performing retail stock of 2014 was Signet. The jeweller, which owns chains such as H Samuel, showed plenty of lustre as its stock climbed 76% over the course of the year.

Signet generally has a low profile here – partly because the bulk of its business is done in the US and partly the hangover of the notorious ‘prawn sandwich’ publicity it gained in its former incarnation as Ratners.

Overlooked it may often be, but Signet is a great retail success story. Expect it to remain out of the headlines but still to sparkle in 2015.

Dixons Carphone’s stellar surge

The other golden performer was Dixons Carphone, the technology specialist created through merger last summer, whose shares surged almost 71% over the course of last year.

Led by the irrepressible Seb James, the enlarged business had to contend with plenty of scepticism from those who thought the tie-up was driven by weakness rather than strength and pooh-poohed its premise that a new sort of business was needed to reflect a world increasingly connected by digital devices.

Last month James, in typically bullish terms, unveiled what he described as a “barnstorming” performance at maiden interim results.  

He has made no secret of his ambition to double Dixons Carphone’s valuation.

Dixons Carphone today has a higher market capitalisation than Sainsbury’s, something few would have imagined this time last year.

That partly reflects the doldrums in which the big grocers find themselves, but you can bet that James will be determined to keep plenty of spark in Dixons Carphone’s plugs.

Worth noting too is much-maligned WHSmith’s showing among the top performers, up almost 35% over the year.

The common thread is that the future and relevance of each of the three has been questioned within relatively recent memory. But all eventually came back as ‘barnstormers’.

Investors in Tesco, down nearly 44% last year, can perhaps take some comfort from that as they nibble on their cold turkey sandwiches.