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Seasonal sales rush cheer for House of Fraser

Department store chain House of Fraser, which Sir Tom Hunter owns a stake in, has recorded its "best ever" Christmas period with sales for the six weeks to January 5 rising 6.3%.

STAKEHOLDER: Sir Tom Hunter will be pleased at the retailer's success following a relaunch of its website. Picture: Andrew Cowan
STAKEHOLDER: Sir Tom Hunter will be pleased at the retailer's success following a relaunch of its website. Picture: Andrew Cowan

The retailer was shifting around 45,000 pairs of shoes and 40,000 handbags a week in the period as fashion and beauty sales soared, while in-house brands such as Linea, Biba and Howick also performed well.

Frasers, which has more than 60 shops across the UK, had started discounting in the weeks running up to Christmas Day and the move appears to have paid off.

The rising number of people shopping on mobile devices and tablet computers seems to have delivered a huge boost to the firm.

Online records were broken, with sales up 48%. Overall, the online arm brought in more money than any one individual store.

The company said it had benefited from a relaunch of its website plus the opening of click and collect stores in Aberdeen and Liverpool.

Don McCarthy, chairman of House of Fraser, said: "The positive sales trends experienced in our third quarter have continued throughout the festive period and we are pleased to report another record performance, despite a more competitive environment.

"This performance demonstrates the success of our strategy to continuously improve our online proposition, develop both our house brands and fashion credentials and invest in our stores to give our customer the best possible shopping experience."

The privately owned group, which has its own branded bricks and mortar stores in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow and also owns the Jenners shops in the Scottish capital and at Loch Lomond Shores, said the strong festive performance meant like for like sales excluding VAT in the fourth quarter are running 5.2% ahead.

Mr McCarthy believes the company is in a strong position even though there continue to be difficulties on the high street.

He said: "There is no doubt that 2012 was a challenging year in retail and it remains difficult to predict when economic conditions and consumer sentiment will improve.

"However, with the strong sales performance in the period and a close focus on margins and operational efficiencies, we expect to report growth in full year earnings in line with previous indications.

"Given the sales performance, we also expect to finish the year with a cleaner stock position and are well placed to deliver further growth in 2013."

House of Fraser employs 7300 staff plus 11,000 more through its branded in-store concessions.

The business began life in the mid-19th century as a drapery business run by Hugh Fraser and James Arthur in Glasgow.

It grew by acquiring rivals such as Arnotts and remained under family control until the 1980s, when it was bought by the Al Fayed family.

In 2006 House of Fraser was bought by a consortium led by the now-defunct Icelandic retail investor Baugur in a £351 million deal.

Along with Sir Tom Hunter, other shareholders in Highland Group Holdings, which owns House of Fraser, include Karen Millen co-founder Kevin Stanford, ex-Amazon UK executive Robin Terrell and Michael Pacitti, formerly a Scottish based director at private equity group 3i.

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