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East Anglia: Slow start to year for department stores group Beales after busy Christmas

06:00 22 March 2014

The Beales store in Lowestoft.

The Beales store in Lowestoft.

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Department stores chain Beales, whose 30 UK sites include branches in Lowestoft, Beccles, Diss and Saffron Walden, has reported a 4% fall in like-for-like sales for the 19 weeks to March 15.

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The group said the decline reflected a slow start to the period after promotions of the previous year were not repeated and shoppers opted to buy presents closer to Christmas.

The 14 days of Christmas saw like-for-like sales increase 4.1% as shoppers returned to local high streets for late Christmas shopping, Beales said, but, post-Christmas, customers were seeking to secure a bargain, with “sale rails” the first port of call for many people entering its stores.

The first three weeks of the new calendar year saw like for like sales increase 9.0%, which even allowing for the snow and ice in the prior year, reflected good growth, Beales said.

The end of January and most of February were materially affected by the flooding and inclement weather that affected the UK and like-for-like sales were behind 5.6% during this period compared to the same period last year.

The start of March had seen a continuing improvement in trade as the warmer temperatures, the appearance of sunshine and the introduction of brighter and more colourful spring/summer product is introduced into the stores, it added.

Chief executive Michael Hitchcock said: “With limited cash resources and limitless employee engagement, enthusiasm and passion in and for the business, we continue to turn Beales around; working, engaging and collaborating with all stakeholders, we have the ambition to be the local high street department store of choice securing repeat business by offering the highest possible customer service.”

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