From couture to car maintenance, Christmas trading statements this week have been peppered with positive news for some retailers. Investment in autocentres seems to be paying off for Halfords (HFD), which reported 5.6 per cent growth in like-for-like revenue in the 15 weeks to 11 January. Group like-for-like revenue was up just 1 per cent, an improvement on the 2.7 per cent fall the year before. Halfords' new chief executive, Matt Davies, has plans to turn the company around, so we retain our buy rating.
Burberry (BRBY) reported double-digit comparable store sales growth in its emerging markets, compared with low single-digit growth in America and flat sales in Europe for the third quarter. Group underlying revenue grew 9 per cent. Wholesale revenue slumped 5 per cent and management has cut expectations for the second half. Burberry still faces significant economic headwinds and is still overpriced in our view.
Ocado's (OCDO) Christmas trading statement came in ahead of expectations. Sales grew 14.2 per cent in the six weeks to 6 January, boosted by strong demand for Ocado's own-label products and non-food items. Ocado is on track to open a second warehouse, but profit expectations are poor and it's struggling to compete with the supermarkets, so the shares still rate a sell.
N Brown (BWNG) reported like-for-like sales growth of 7.9 per cent in the 19 weeks to 12 January. An additional £2m investment in attracting new customers helped drive sales, but at lower margins. Chief executive Alan White says the company is tapping into the $35bn plus-sized womenswear market in the US, while opening stores in the UK. This investment comes with a hefty price tag, but is set to pay off given management's conservative style and the company's low fixed cost base. We keep it on a buy.