Bloomberg News

House of Fraser Sees ‘Challenging’ 2012 After Holiday Sales Rise

January 12, 2012

Jan. 12 (Bloomberg) -- House of Fraser Ltd., the U.K. department-store chain owned by Highland Group Holdings Ltd., said revenue rose in December and predicted that 2012 will be “very challenging” as customers restrain spending.

Sales at stores open more than a year, including value- added tax, gained 11.1 percent in the five weeks to Dec. 31, the company said today in an e-mailed statement, aided by a 124 percent boost in online purchasing. Sales rose 3.6 percent in the nine weeks to the end of the year, it said.

While House of Fraser was “pleased” with trading during the holidays, it had a “difficult season” due to warmer weather and discounting by competitors, Chairman Don McCarthy said in the statement. The chain has developed “more cautious plans” in anticipation of a rough economy this year, he said.

The 63-store chain is adding upmarket brands such as Gucci and Prada accessories to its stores as well as extending its own-brand range as it seeks to retain customers amid unemployment fears and government spending cuts. U.K. consumer confidence slid in December to the lowest level in almost three years, GfK NOP Ltd. said Dec. 21.

Debenhams Plc, the U.K.’s second-largest department-store chain, reported on Jan. 10 that same-store sales excluding value-add tax were unchanged in the 18 weeks to Jan. 7, and said it was “cautious about the strength of the economy.”

House of Fraser was taken private in November 2006 by Highland Acquisitions, a group partially owned by Baugur Group Hf, the failed Icelandic investor.

--Editors: David Risser, Robert Valpuesta

To contact the reporter on this story: Clementine Fletcher in London cfletcher5@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Sara Marley at smarley1@bloomberg.net


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