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Five retailers who excelled during the Christmas season

The Christmas season saw five retailers increase their revenues as the world turned to e-commerce for the ‘new normal’ during the peak festive period. From online fashion to DIY brands, despite the catastrophic impact of Covid-19, retailers in the UK have managed to bounce back just in time for the new year.



Asos has gone from strength to strength in the past few years with this year being no different. Over the peak festive season it saw its sales increase by 23% to £1.32bn from £1.074bn the previous year, which the group claimed was due to support by investors who helped capture “available demand” and build up customer momentum during the period. The retailer expressed how its Christmas period sales “succeeded its expectations” over the holidays.

Asos was founded in 2000 to cater to “20-somethings around the world” and has since grown to over 200 markets. Sourced from 850 global and local third-party brands and its mix of fashion-led in-house labels, the group has evolved into a household name for online fashion.


The DIY retailer saw its Christmas performance outshine expectations over the period, reporting a 17.4% increase in sales for Q4, while e-commerce sales soared by 150%.

In the UK and Ireland, the group’s stores continued to perform strongly throughout December, with growth at Screwfix accelerating from November. It is reportedly on track to reach total sales of £2bn in FY 20/21.

The company currently operates 1,380 stores from its retail banners B&Q, Castorama, Brico Dépôt, Screwfix, TradePoint and Koçtaş throughout Europe and has 79,000 employees.

William May

William May, which has been involved in the British jewellery industry for almost 200 years, also welcomed a period of strong Christmas trading amid its burgeoning online presence.

It expressed its relief in not only surviving the brunt of Covid-19, but also in coming out the other side stronger, welcoming 250% growth year-on-year in sales over the Christmas period, as well as a massive 200% increase in its volumes orders compared with 2019. The jewellers also saw a 134% increase in the average order value over the November – December period.

The jewellery industry as a whole was hit hard by Covid-19 and the restrictions placed globally on trade, yet William May has managed to see a significant rise in sales of personalised and sentimental jewellery over the period. Nick Withington, MD of William May, attributes the group’s recent Christmas success to “adapting its marketing channels and shifting its focus on bringing back previous customers”, with an aim to increase “lifetime value”, which has been recently supported through email marketing and social media campaigns.


Next was one of the largest clothing companies that managed to surpass its expectations by reportedly making back “almost all of its losses” experienced in 2020 over its peak season sales. The group had previously experienced a 17.9% decline in Q3 as well as 12.3% lower markdown sales than last year attributing to lower footfall in retail stores and capacity constraints in the online warehouses.

Simon Wolfson, CEO of Next, had warned in September 2020 that thousands of “traditional” retail jobs were in danger under the chancellor’s new “viability” focus. Despite this, the group still managed to outperform.

In the nine weeks to 26 December 2020, the group revealed it was able to compensate for almost all its losses in retail stores, with total product full price sales down by only 0.5%. After accounting for the surprising sales results for November and December and anticipated losses from store closures in January 2020, Next has estimated its full-year pre-tax profit to be £370m.


Aldi has risen quickly through the supermarket ranks in recent weeks, with sales rising by 10.6% against the prior year in the four weeks to 24 December 2020. The supermarket also saw strong growth in its online wine and special buy offering, with sales in December increasing by 75% from 2019.

The grocer experienced a surge in customers ordering their groceries online through its click and collect service and delivery partnership with Deliveroo which helped its overall sales. The supermarket, which currently has over 900 stores said it plans to open on average a new store every week over the coming years as it targets 1,200 stores by 2025.

The group recently increased its minimum hourly rate to £9.55 an hour nationwide, exceeding the Living Wage Foundation’s latest recommended pay rates. According to the supermarket, these changes mean that store employees across the UK will earn a minimum of £0.83 more per hour than the current national living wage, and £2.35 more an hour if they work within greater London.

The pay rise is set to come into effect on 1 February and will see new minimum hourly rates for store assistants rise from £9.40 to £9.55 nationally and those working within the M25 will earn £11.07 an hour instead of £10.90.

The group has also pledged to create 4,000 store-level positions this year. In addition, the grocer said it will invest £1.3bn over the next two years into new stores, distribution centres and further business innovations, reflecting a significant step forward for the company.

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