Retailers have celebrated a strong start to the post-Christmas Sales after facing harsh trading conditions for much of December.

New Look trading director Will Kernan said: “We’re comfortable with the way the Sale has cleared. The past three weeks have been a nice Christmas present. In gross profit terms, we’ve seen growth and we’re pleased.”

John Lewis director of selling operations Nat Wakely said the retailer had record takings on its first day on Sale, when handbags sold at the rate of 1,000 an hour. He said: “We were running double-digit increases against last year, but this has come back to 2.5 per cent. Given that we’re trading a day short [because of being shut on New Year’s Day], if we get back to 5 per cent by the end of the week, we’d be really happy.”

Encouraging Sales followed a mixed Christmas, when customers waited until the last minute before spending. Poundland chief executive Jim McCarthy said: “Christmas was pretty good. It was late, but we finished strongly.”

Asda chief executive Andy Bond was content with its performance. “The week before Christmas saw 1 million more customers shop at Asda than in 2006, with 200 stores surpassing£2 million in sales,” he said.

A House of Fraser spokesman said: “We’ve had a very strong Christmas, with both like-for-like and margin growth.”

However, while pleased with his seasonal trading, Peacocks chief executive Richard Kirk warned: “The end of December has not made up for weak trading at the end of November and beginning of December for many.”

Embattled furniture retailers have reported a solid start to the Sales. MFI chief executive Gary Favell said: “We are where we expected to be but, because we changed our strategy, it is hard to compare with last year.”

Dreams managing director Nick Worthington said: “Our like-for-likes are up 5 per cent. We are trying hard not to be complacent, because this year, only the strong will survive.”

Habitat said Sale turnover was up 10 per cent on last year.