(Adds Tesco, AB Foods, Whitbread, Boohoo, Card Factory, Halfords and Dunelm)
Jan 15 (Reuters) - The 2020 Christmas holiday season presented British retailers with a unique challenge as they navigated strict COVID-19 containment measures and prepared for Britain’s departure from the European Union.
The United Kingdom is struggling to contain a new, fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus, while coming to terms with Britain’s new trading relationship with the European Union following its departure from the bloc.
As a new national lockdown has begun and coronavirus vaccines are rolled out, here is how some of Britain’s retailers are faring, with the latest news first:
The Primark-owner warned that the loss of sales from store closures could rise to over 1.5 billion pounds ($2 billion)if current lockdowns last until the end of March, but the group is confident of strong growth upon reopening.
Tesco followed supermarket rivals in reporting buoyant Christmas trading, keeping its full-year profit forecast despite rising costs from COVID-19.
The online fashion retailer, working to rebuild its image following a row over low pay and working conditions in its supply chain, raised its annual revenue target after a strong Christmas season.
Bicycle and car products retailer posted an 11.5% jump in sales in the last three months of 2020, benefiting from a coronavirus-driven boom in cycling as more Britons avoided public transport.
The Premier Inn owner said that a restructuring of its hotels and restaurants had resulted in around 1,500 job cuts, rather than the 6,000 predicted, and that it had outperformed the British market.
The homeware retailer performed strongly in the run-up to Christmas - its second quarter - with sales rising 11.8% despite COVID restrictions, but said without clarity on when it could reopen stores the outlook was uncertain.
It warned of an annual loss and said it risked breaching its covenants by this month-end as Britain’s retail sector continued to get hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, sending its shares nearly 3% lower in early trade.
The online fashion retailer forecast a full-year profit at the top end of market forecasts after Christmas trading surpassed its expectations helped by strong demand during COVID-19 lockdowns.
The British arm of German discount supermarket Lidl said sales had increased by 17.9% in the four weeks to Dec. 27, driven by customers buying more goods in stores and switching away from rivals.
UK home improvement retailer raised its profit outlook as it reported another big jump in sales, continuing to benefit from the popularity of do-it-yourself (DIY) projects during the COVID-19 pandemic.
THE HUT GROUP
The Hut Group said it expects 2021 revenue to be 30%-35% higher than 2020, underpinned by its acquisition of Dermstore.com and a surge in online demand for its beauty products amid coronavirus lockdowns in the UK.
Britain’s biggest sportswear retailer forecast full-year profit to be “significantly ahead” of market expectations of about 295 million pounds ($397.1 million) thanks to strong online sales during coronavirus lockdowns.
MARKS & SPENCER
M&S reported another big fall in sales of clothing and homeware in the three months leading up to Christmas, as restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus hit demand and closed stores.
PETS AT HOME
The pet supplies retailer raised its pretax profit forecast for the second time in five months after strong Christmas sales, lifting its shares higher.
The pub operator said it expects pubs to be closed at least until March as part of the national lockdown imposed earlier this week, with some curbs to remain even after businesses are allowed to reopen.
The supermarket group raised its annual profit forecast as it reported strong trading in the Christmas quarter when COVID-19 restrictions kept people eating and drinking at home.
The discount retailer reported a 22.5% jump in holiday quarter sales and announced a special dividend, benefiting from low prices and stores that remained open during lockdowns.
The fashion retailer reported a 58% plunge in store sales for seven weeks that included the holiday season and warned of a hit of up to 18 million pounds if new COVID-19 curbs continued.
MITCHELLS & BUTLERS
The company said it was exploring an equity capital raising, as a new national lockdown shut the pub operator’s sites, adding no decision had been made yet on its timing, size or terms.
The baker and fast food retailer has slowed the sales decline caused by the pandemic but does not expect profits to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2022 at the earliest.
The tile retailer said the new lockdown in England, which has shut the company’s stores for browsing, is expected to hit sales and margins.
Strong sales of champagne and whole salmon helped the supermarket group outpace bigger rivals over Christmas as Britons made up for pandemic-related restrictions on pubs and restaurants by treating themselves at home.
The British fashion retailer soundly beat its forecast for Christmas sales despite COVID-19 restrictions closing stores in November and the final shopping days of December, resulting in another upgrade to underlying profit guidance.
The British arm of the German discount supermarket group said sales rose 10.6% year on year in the four weeks to Dec. 24, with a spike in demand for premium products helping to deliver a record Christmas performance.
$1 = 0.7429 pounds $1 = 0.7327 pounds Compiled by Tanishaa Nadkar in Bengaluru Editing by David Goodman, Mark Potter, Barbara Lewis, William Maclean and Kim Coghill