After a busy few days chock-full of Christmas retail results, we're finally beginning to get a sense of who the winners and losers of 2015's festive period might be.
Yesterday, Tesco surprised investors with better-than-expected results, rounding off a solid performance among the UK's traditional supermarket sector – although Asda is still yet to report.
Marks & Spencer, meanwhile, had a dismal time of it – and even Next has struggled with the warm weather, a fact which did not put shoppers off from flashing the cash at JD Sports, which yesterday upped its profit guidance by as much as 10 per cent on the back of strong results.
As we pick through the bones of the retail results, Hargreaves Lansdown has already called who can be crowned the winners of Christmas 2015 – and who will be remembered as the Christmas turkey.
Poundland, Game Digital and Sports Direct were the losers this year, Hargreaves Lansdown says.
"Christmas just didn’t happen for Poundland and they were forced to warn that weak footfall had left their sales in tatters, perhaps because shoppers ordered goods online and had no reason to walk past Poundland’s stores", the asset management group said this morning.
Game Digital also had a bad showing, with customers not upgrading to the latest generation consoles as fast as predicted. Since it issued its warning back in December, its share price has more than halved.
Sports Direct surprised investors with its profit warning last week, which was blamed on the warm weather – despite the fact that direct competitor JD Sports actually had a stronger-than-expected period.
"Many investors will have been perplexed to read a few days later that whilst the core business had been underperforming, management had been busy taking small minority stakes via derivative contracts in a couple of US retailers," Hargreaves Lansdown notes. Although, let's face it, that's not the first time.
Marks & Spencer had another poor set of results, piling yet more declines onto previous quarterly drops, with embattled chief executive Marc Bolland finally announcing his departure at the same time. Next was also forced to announce that sales had come in below plan.
"Both these companies had stuck to their guns on pricing, declining to discount heavily before Christmas. This kept margins firm, but cost dearly on volumes," Hargreaves Lansdown said.
Kantar research meanwhile suggested that Aldi and Lidl had lost some market share over the key Christmas peak, perhaps indicating that we are seeing the start of a fight-back by the big four supermarket operators.
This was born out by the results from major supermarkets, which surprised everyone – although admittedly from very low expectations.
Morrison's this week returned to growth in like-for-like sales, confounding analysts who had predicted a decline of two per cent. Sainsbury's also impressed with "a pretty robust number, albeit not quite good enough to get into positive LFL territory", giving investors hope that all was not so bad at Tesco.
As it turned out, the UK's biggest retailer has very good news, moving "firmly into positive LFL sales over Christmas"- although its third quarter figures were not so strong.
Sainsbury also helped Home Retail Group move into the spotlight, thanks to its bid for the business. It was also revealed that Australian Wesfarmers is hoping to buy Homebase for £340m. Despite a poor performance from Argos, therefore, investors are confident about the future.
And Debenhams – which many had been expecting to go the way of M&S – surprised everyone by producing one of the better results and their shares jumped on the news. This was largely down to the fact that chief executive Michael Sharp has stuck to his guns on the decision to reduce discounting.
Overall, after an unpredictable Christmas, the outlook for the remainder of 2016 looks good, Hargreaves Lansdown says. Rents are falling in many locations and consumers have more money to spend – but retailers must manage the impact of rising wages on their costs.