John Lewis bucks downward trend
The financial squeeze on consumers hit niche retailers in
December and January.
Several names disappeared from many Kent high streets, including
Hawkin's Bazaar, brought down when the Tobar Holdings Group
collapsed into administration. Forty out of 65 stores closed on
Retro retailer Past Times, lingerie chain La Senza, Peacocks
clothing stores, Pumpkin Patch children's fashion stores, Blacks
outdoor clothing and accessories retailer, Barratts and its
Priceless Shoes operation all went into administration. Some were
bought out in pre-pack deals while others found buyers who closed
outlets and laid off staff.
HMV struggled in a tough market, while clothes retailer Next
reported lower high street sales but higher online turnover.
But some supermarkets - Tesco apart - and departmental stores
did reasonably well.
John Lewis led the charge by larger chains, bucking the downward
trend by posting total sales of £596m in the five weeks to December
31, 9.3% up on the previous, snow-covered, period a year ago, and
19.1% up on two years ago.
Like-for-like sales rose 6.2% on the previous year and 14.4% on
the same period two years ago. But online sales were up 27.9%,
pushing annual sales through the £600m mark.
Andy Street, managing director, hailed an "outstanding"
Council officers raised concerns about Italian investors' possible mafia links when it was drawing up a rescue package for debt-ridden Transeuropa.
Company chiefs in the county say "wholesale review" of business rates would be welcomed but admit they do not know what the alternative is.
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