As the general market slid on renewed Eurozone crisis fears, retailers outperformed, although they were still down in the week leading up to Wednesday’s raft of updates.
Despite widespread acknowledgement that retail trading conditions will remain torrid for months to come, Shore Capital equity strategist saw some reasons to be cheerful and maintained: “The UK consumer’s demise is exaggerated.”
He pointed to a pick-up in take-home pay, increasing private sector employment and a likely easing of inflation next year as among the encouraging dynamics and said there is still valuation appeal in the general retail sector.
Bellwether retailer Marks & Spencer’s first-quarter update met Matrix’s expectations. The broker, advising buy, said: “The shares had a decent run in the week or so up to [the] figures so there may be an element of travelling versus arriving, but we continue to see upside to 407p at which level the shares will be at a small premium to the sector.”
Investec, also a buyer with a price target of 430p, said: “We continue to see support for our view that M&S has enough self-help to deliver further sales outperformance versus its peers. This should also be supported by its more resilient customer base.”
Investec is also a buyer of luxury retailer Burberry and hailed its 34% increase in underlying sales during the first quarter as “a blockbuster performance”.
Peel Hunt downgraded profit expectations for Topps Tiles by £1m to £15.5m after a disappointing third quarter statement. The broker, which rates Topps a buy, said: “Topps remains well managed, with tight cost control and margin management providing support to earnings.”
Sell Thorntons urged Seymour Pierce. The retailer issued an update covering the eight weeks to June 25 showing a like-for-like sales fall of 10.6% at company-owned stores. Thorntons is likely to book a £3.5m exceptional charge to cover store closures.
Seymour Pierce said: “Thorntons is running up the down escalator. Its new strategic plan is a sensible response to the pressure bearing down on the business. The problem is that some of those pressures are immediate.”
Next week the spotlight will fall on the big grocers when the latest Kantar figures are released. The big City update will come from B&Q-owner Kingfisher on Thursday. Jefferies, advising buy, expects B&Q second-quarter like-for-likes to be down as much as 4.4% but international operations to be better.