International News - Poor Christmas sales hit Inditex

Delayed consumer spending at Christmas affected trading in markets worldwide, not just the UK, according to Inditex.

British shoppers postponed their Christmas spending until the final 48 hours, and analysts say that the same trend was evident in the performance of Inditex, which operates in 44 countries.

The retailer posted a 29 per cent rise in net income for fiscal 2002.

That was below expectations, mainly because of a dip in sales two weeks before Christmas.

However, performance improved after Christmas and throughout January.

According to CSFB analyst Nathan Cockrell, the change in consumer behaviour cost Inditex between 2 and 2.5 percentage points of sales growth.

Inditex also cited a general strike in Venezuela, where it was forced to close 23 stores, and poor performances from its Pull & Bear and Stradivarius chains. However, Europe is accounting for more and more of the retailer's sales and profits.

Cockrell said: 'Pull & Bear took their eye off the ball and got their proposition wrong.'

The 1,558-store group, which includes the Zara chain, reported net income of EUR438.1 million (£297.9 million) on sales ahead by 22 per cent to EUR3.9 billion (£2.65 billion).

Like-for-like sales were ahead by 11 per cent for the year. Inditex said it expects to open between 260 and 315 stores in the next year.