General retailers and grocers were both left on the shelf by investors and the market was flat overall.
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Profit warnings from Clinton Cards and Mothercare at the end of last week did not help sentiment towards stores.
Dunelm, the sweetheart stock of many analysts, also disappointed and robust updates from retailers including Marks & Spencer and JD Sports went unrewarded over the week. The grocers were also lacklustre even though Morrisons, the first to report, put in a better seasonal performance than expected.
Mothercare was one of the retailers that blamed the snow for their woes. Brokers accepted the rationale that pregnant women and young mums stayed at home during the bad weather, but also have a sneaking suspicion that the supermarkets are increasingly breathing down Mothercare’s neck.
Arden noted: “We are left with an uneasy feeling that there was more to the poor December than just the snow, so wouldn’t be rushing to pick up the shares.”
M&S lost about £50m of sales because of the weather but managed a good performance, helped by the inclusion of the start of its Sale in the reporting period.
UBS switched its rating from buy to neutral after cutting its above-consensus profit expectation. The broker said it now looks unlikely that M&S consensus forecasts are too low and risks to consumer spending have increased.
Oriel, advising buy, expects continued momentum at M&S and said: “Despite the difficulties of the wider environment, it is clear that M&S continues to make good progress.”
Sainsbury’s update on Wednesday showed it to be the Christmas supermarket star and came just a day after Kantar data revealed it had overtaken Asda by market share for the first time since 2003, albeit on a four-week basis.
Hold, recommended Altium. The broker said: “Sainsburys had a really good Christmas and now has an established pattern of growth on growth. We think that it was in the sweet spot, with its product offer matching consumer requirements for quality and value.”
Matrix rates Morrisons a buy, partly because of its solid balance sheet. The broker said: “We expect the company to announce plans for the return of capital to shareholders at the results in March - a further catalyst for the shares.”
SuperGroup posted stellar numbers, Arden said: “SuperGroup is emerging as a potential global fashion superbrand and the mystery is why the shares have been so out of favour in the last month.”
More Christmas updates next week. Despite the fears before Christmas, it seems that most retailers’ profit forecasts are intact, although often at the low end of the range.
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