Shop Direct sales surge on internet

LITTLEWOODS owner Shop Direct enjoyed a 6.3 per cent sales rise in the run-up to Christmas as shoppers flocked to buy over the internet.

The home shopping group, which also operates the, Kays and brands, said online sales were up 19 per cent on the previous year in the six weeks to 1 January. With its websites attracting one million customers a day, sales via the internet accounted for 65 per cent of purchases, nearing the group’s target of 70 per cent by the next financial year. Party wear performed particularly strongly, with five dresses sold each minute as shoppers readied themselves for the festive season.

Chief executive Mark Newton-Jones said the popularity of online shopping was extending the festive trading window. “We found that last year customers concentrated their shopping into two weeks but this year, we have seen four equally large trading weeks; the last two weeks of November and the first two weeks of December.”

The group, owned by Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, also said margin growth was “significantly ahead” of sales growth because of fewer clearance sales before Christmas and “stronger supplier support”.

But despite the Christmas performance, Newton-Jones warned that 2010 would continue to be “challenging” for retailers.