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Best ever Christmas for House of Fraser

RECORD sales at its Glasgow outlet helped department store chain House of Fraser to its best ever Christmas trading period.

This follows strong sales figures from employee-owned John Lewis and a poor performance at Debenhams, which has announced the departure of finance director Simon Herrick.

House of Fraser chief executive John King said: "We are delighted with our Christmas trading and are pleased to report another record performance despite a more competitive environment.

"November trading was strong, in terms of both sales and margin growth, with a similar promotional programme.

"As we expected, the peak Christmas trading came late, however, it was the best we have ever recorded."

The performance comes at a good time for House of Fraser's shareholders, who include Ayrshire entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter, as they seek to sell the business.

House of Fraser reported a 7.3% rise in like-for-like sales for the three weeks to December 28 and an 11.9% rise in cash gross margins.

Many shoppers were still keen to visit House of Fraser's outlets in person, with sales from stores up 3% in the three-week period including a 10.6% rise in sales in its Glasgow outlet and 8.3% in Belfast.

Online sales for the three-week period were up 57.7% on last year.

Mr King said House of Fraser expects improved earnings this year. Last year, it made a loss before tax and exceptional items of £6.9m.

House of Fraser is reported to have been in talks with French department store group Galeries Lafayette over a possible sale after a decade under private ownership. It has also been considering a return to the stock market.

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