House of Fraser warns of ‘very challenging’ trade conditions in latest report

The House of Fraser store on Oxford Street in Central London. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

The House of Fraser store on Oxford Street in Central London. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Department store chain House of Fraser became the latest retailer to warn over high street conditions as it revealed sales woes amid 'very challenging' trading.

The group reported flat sales over the six months to July 30 and said trading had worsened since then amid low consumer confidence and the disruption of a store revamp plan.

It posted a 2% drop in sales over the eight weeks to September 24.

Nigel Oddy, chief executive of House of Fraser, said: 'We have, like many of our peers, experienced an extremely volatile trading environment since the final quarter of fiscal year 2016, and we expect this uncertain economic situation to remain for some time.'

But the group said it was 'cautiously optimistic' of a bounce-back over the all-important festive quarter, when it makes around 85% of its entire year's profits.

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House of Fraser adds to a mounting list of retailers alerting over difficult high street trading, with John Lewis and Next also recently cautioning over a shift in consumer spending.

Frank Slevin, executive chairman of House of Fraser, said: 'The UK retail sector is facing significant change in structural dynamics as consumers shopping habits and delivery expectations continue to evolve.'

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House of Fraser reported interim sales of £573.5m, in line with a year earlier, while underlying like-for-like sales edged 0.9% higher, stripping out Virgin Travel concessions.

Underlying earnings dropped sharply to £1.1m from £9.2m a year ago, but it said this was largely down to a fall in financial services income. Gross profits nudged up by £2.5m to £207.2m.

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