Pre-Xmas chill as Woolies issues profit warning

Chief executive Trevor Bish-Jones said in a statement this morning that having assessed the past week’s trading figures he felt that the city had to be informed. “There is not too much mystery about the underlying fall in footfall in the High Street in October and November,” he said. “We got in on Monday and had a look at the figures and decided it was appropriate to update the market.”

As Christmas falls on a Monday, festive sales could come even later this year, as previously reported by MCV last week.

The culprits are the retailer’s entertainment and seasonal Christmas lines, which are said to have fared less well than Woolworths’ toy offering. The retailer revealed this morning that the last two months of trading have fallen well short of target, with underlying sales for the 18 weeks up to last Saturday down 6.5 per cent.

Despite the profit warning, the retailer maintained that it would not get involved in any pre-Christmas price cutting.

And defying the gloom, chairman Bish-Jones highlighted the overwhelming success of its attempt to take on catalogue giant Argos with its Big Red Book, which has led to unforeseen costs.

“We have been a victim of our own success with Big Red Book,” he said. “It has blown all our expectations away, but there is some cost in maintaining customer service.”

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