Private equity-owned New Look has dismissed speculation that a “For sale” sign could be hoisted over the fast-fashion retailer in 2009 as it notched up like-for-like growth over the crucial Christmas period.

Chief finance officer Alastair Miller told Retail Week that management was “not aware” of private equity owners Apax and Permira having any intention of selling the business this year.

“With the equity and debt markets firmly closed it is difficult to see it happening,” he said.

Speculation about a potential sale arose as a number of private equity-backed retailers reach their fifth year of private ownership, traditionally the point at which an exit is mooted.

New Look revealed market-defying like-for-like growth of 2.8 per cent in the 14 weeks to January 3.

Chief executive Carl McPhail said the performance was the result of more efficient stock management, clarity about its fashion and value mix and the acceleration of its fast-fashion model.

“We looked to focus on key lines at the right price and bought at the right volumes over the last 18 months,” said McPhail. “We are still creating fashion value and getting it out at the right time.”

McPhail said New Look will maintain tight stock control and has 12 per cent more space against this time last year, compared with 6 per cent more stock, enabling it to avoid heavy discounting.

“We weren't in a position where we needed to discount and went into Sale on Boxing Day,” said McPhail.

The retailer plans to launch exclusive higher price point ranges online after the success of its web site in its first year. In its peak week before Christmas it recorded 1.1 million visitors.

McPhail said New Look was well placed to ride out the downturn but “shared the sentiment that times will be tough”.