Asda brand a step closer to taking top spot by 2011 as volume growth outpaces the market

George has notched up market-beating year-on-year volume growth in the quarter to February 1 and managing director Anthony Thompson vowed to keep prices low despite sterling’s depreciation.

Figures from TNS Worldpanel Fashion for the 12 weeks to February 1, seen by Retail Week, revealed George recorded 10 per cent year-on-year volume growth, while the total fashion market’s volume declined 2 per cent.

The value fashion brand led the pack. New Look and Primark recorded growth of 7 per cent each, and Sainsbury’s notched up 6 per cent. Marks & Spencer was the only retailer to record falling volume year on year – down 3 per cent, according to the data.

The figures provide evidence that Thompson – a former retail director of M&S – is edging closer to his goal of making George Britain’s biggest volume clothing retailer by 2011. Thompson said in March last year that he would topple his former employer from its top clothing perch within three years.

Thompson said: “It’s great that shoppers are noticing the improvements to the George range and while market share is important, what’s more important is to meet the needs of the customer.”

He added that George would continue to focus on quality, style and value and that “sustained market share growth will only come if we get this right”.

Singer Capital Markets retail analyst Matthew McEachran said that while value clothing retailers have been making good progress, a note of caution should accompany figures for the quarter because it includes the heavily promotional Christmas period.

“M&S came out of Sale very early in January so therefore they would not have the same volume growth,” he said. “We will get a clearer picture from full-year figures.”

Thompson said while the whole market is under pressure from currency fluctuations, the retailer does not intend to put prices up. “While we can’t defy gravity, we will do everything in our power to give customers the best possible prices. It’s not in our DNA to put prices up,” he said.

No comment was available from M&S as Retail Week went to press.