In spite of the challenges facing retail, JD Sports revealed today like-for-like sales had soared 10 percent in the 22 weeks to January 1 compared with last year. The group says the rise in demand has left it “confident” that profits for this year will be ahead of current expectations. Amisha Chohan, Head of Small Cap Strategy at Quilter Cheviot, said the company was: “A high-quality business and well-positioned to consolidate the market and with a strong management track record and ‘trusted partner’ relationships with the premium brands such as Nike and Adidas. The path to further growth remains clear for JD Sports.” JD Sports boss Peter Cowgill has warned however of the “imposition” of rising National Insurance and corporation tax on businesses this year though, telling the Evening Standard today: “I would certainly question it, very much so.” Among other retailers, this week has also seen positive news for grocers.
Yesterday Marks and Spencer reported booming sales with its position cemented as the UK’s fastest-growing grocer in the period leading up to Christmas.
Today Sainsbury’s delivered better than expected sales over Christmas with food and drink seeing a 6.8 percent increase on pre-pandemic levels.
Britain’s second-biggest supermarket has now increased its full-year profit guidance to “at least” £720million, up from a previous expectation of £660million.
With inflation expected to hit customer purchasing power this year Sainsbury’s is increasingly trying to take on discount supermarkets such as Lidl and Aldi.
Chief Executive Simon Roberts said: “Offering great value will be more important than ever this year and we have just launched our bold new Sainsbury’s Quality Aldi Price Match campaign, which targets 150 fresh products that customers buy most often.”
Sophie Lund-Yates, Equity Analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, explained: “Holding onto market share is a bit like trying to grab a wriggling fish.
“To reverse this, Sainsbury’s is sliding down the value chain to appeal to cost-conscious shoppers.
“It’s a relief to see the group target a more specific market, and this approach could certainly help in an inflationary environment as incomes don’t stretch as far.”
As well as inflation a key pressure on business has been the pandemic with few industries more affected than hospitality.
Today though Premier Inn operator Whitbread revealed market-beating performance with UK accommodation sales up 10.6 percent in the third quarter.
Whitbread is the UK’s largest hospitality business, however it also has operations in Germany where it says lockdown restrictions are posing a “significant drag on market demand.”
Mamta Valechha, Equity Analyst at Quilter Cheviot, said: “For investors, Whitbread can be viewed as a Covid recovery play and we have conviction that Premier Inn hotels will emerge from the crisis stronger and we see upside from the acceleration of the roll-out story in the UK and Germany.”
CEO of Whitbread, Alison Brittain said the company was “In a far stronger position than others to offset inflationary headwinds and return to our pre COVID-19 margins.”
Guests may need to expect a higher bill though.
With the group forecasting inflation on the hospitality sector reaching seven to eight percent, it says it plans to partly offset this with higher prices across its businesses along with cost efficiencies and estate growth.
Among today’s corporate results another company to emerge well was British home furnishing retailer Dunelm which reported “excellent” performance with online sales doubling since the pandemic.
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Dunelm CEO Nick Wilkinson said: “Our integrated physical and digital shopping experience has transformed since we launched our new digital platform in October 2019.
“These advances have enabled us to reach more customers with our brand and specialist homewares product range, whilst also providing a much improved customer experience. “
Today’s selection of results sent the FTSE 100 up further, having already been tracking higher overall in recent weeks.
The index now stands at its highest level since the start of the pandemic, nearly two years ago.
The FTSE 250, which Dunelm trades on, has already well surpassed early 2020 levels.
A further indication of the bounce-back of UK companies will come tomorrow when Tesco releases its Christmas trading statement.