Retail news round-up on January 10, 2014: Retail sales fail to sparkle over Christmas, JD Sports reports positive Christmas sales, Uniqlo bolsters management and Grafton Group sales rise

Festive sales fail to sparkle

Retailers’ hopes for a winning Christmas have been dashed after food suffered its worst performance for five years and non-food was saved by online.

Like-for-likes, up 0.4%, and total sales, up 1.8%, rose at their slowest rate last year in December, despite store groups risking margins by slashing prices, according to the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.

Store chiefs had hoped for a stronger golden quarter on the back of improving sentiment and encouraging economic data. But food like-for-likes fell 0.6% on average across the three months to December.

JD Sports achieves Christmas sales bump

JD Sports has reported that like-for-like sales in the last six weeks were “marginally ahead” of the 5.8% like-for-like growth the retailer had been tracking at in its first half. JD executive chairman Peter Cowgill praised “yet another very robust performance from our core Sports fascias” over Christmas. He added: “Throughout recent years of considerable change and expansion for the Group, the core Sports fascias’ proposition has continued to be developed and enhanced. I am delighted that the most recent six weeks’ trading has continued to give confidence for the future. I also expect considerable further progress elsewhere in the group in 2014.”

Uniqlo hires executives from Walmart and Juicy Couture

Uniqlo owner Fast Retailing has poached executives from a raft of retailers including Walmart to bolster the Japanese retailer’s overseas expansion blitz, Bloomberg reported. Fast Retailing president Tadashi Yanai hopes newly-hired executives from Walmart, Express and Juicy Couture will speed up decision-making in its overseas business. The Fast Retailing hires will ‘help us launch the next stage of our global growth,’ Yanai said in the statement.

The appointments include LeAnn Nealz, formerly Juicy Couture president, as chief creative officer. John Fleming, formerly chief executive, has joined to head Uniqlo’s e-commerce business. Steven Sare has been appointed as chief merchandising officer for Uniqlo USA. Sare was general merchandising manager at Express. Jörgen Andersson will join as co-global chief marketing officer of Uniqlo after holding posts at Esprit and Hennes & Mauritz.

DIY retailer Grafton Group full-year revenues up 8%

Builders merchant and DIY retailer Grafton Group recorded an 8% rise in its revenues last year following improved trading conditions in the UK and Ireland, The Irish Times reported. For the twelve months to December 31, the group’s revenue was £1.9bn, up from £1.76bn for 2012. The firm said its UK business, which generated almost three quarters of group revenue, returned to volume growth. Spending in the Woodie’s DIY businesses showed modest growth in recent months with the benefit of promotional activity.

Grafton is well positioned to benefit from a sustained improvement in trading conditions, but is adopting a cautious stance towards its prospects for 2014. The group remains on course to report full year operating profit in line with its expectations.