Retail giants to give verdict on wintry weather

RETAIL results will be under the microscope this week as a host of big name high street stores deliver market updates.

All eyes will be on Marks & Spencer on Thursday as it releases a trading update for the first three months of the year. Chief executive Marc Bolland was keen to stress a move away from traditional domestic retail towards overseas expansion in the last set of results but the bad weather since the turn of the year is likely to have dampened spirits.

“This is likely to have been a tough quarter for clothing in particular, mainly due to weather conditions but also because the new womenswear team will have made little impact as yet,” Jean Roche, analyst at Panmure Gordon, said. “We expect continued strong trading in the food division.”

Two other big retail names will release results on the same day, giving a fuller picture of how the high street has coped with this year’s miserable weather. WH Smith chief executive Kate Swann delivers her last set of half year results before handing over to new leader Steve Clarke in June. Baby chain Mothercare also updates the market on its recovery plan with fourth quarter figures.

Espirito Santo analyst Sanjay Vidyarthi said: “We think that Mothercare is facing pressure from all angles.” He added: “WH Smith has plenty of levers left to pull to mitigate structural pressures On the high street in particular, we think there is an opportunity to take meaningful market share as the competition struggles.”

Retail could also dominate UK economic news this week, with British Retail Consortium (BRC) like-for-like sales figures for March released today. Tomorrow also sees a raft of production releases, with industrial and manufacturing production figures, along with UK trade balance data.

“This week’s UK data are subject to weather distortions: industrial production should rebound in February, while the BRC data will do well to repeat the prior month’s surge,” Peel Hunt economist Ian Williams said.

Elsewhere in the corporate calendar, full year results are due from Polymetal International and Christie Group today, while tomorrow sees high end recruitment firm Robert Walters deliver first quarter results and Shanks put out a pre-close statement. Victrex also has a pre-close statement released tomorrow.

On Wednesday, engineering group WS Atkins, bedding company Dunelm, and bike and car superstore Halfords release quarterly results, while Thursday sees additional results from money manager Ashmore, and soap maker PZ Cussons, which puts out its interim management statement. The FTSE will also be hoping to reverse last week’s dips after closing down 1.5 per cent on Friday.