Clinton Cards saw group like-for-like (LFL) sales over the critical Christmas period edge up 0.4 per cent year-on-year, aided by the better weather conditions in November and December 2011.
In the five weeks to January 1st 2012, the card & gift specialist’s Clintons fascia saw LFLs grow 0.8 per cent, but its Birthdays brand experienced a 2.7 per cent decline in trading.
New CEO Darcy Willson-Rymer attributed the small jump in LFLs to changes made as part of an ongoing strategic review, which involves repositioning the business through refreshing its store portfolio and reducing operational costs.
The retailer reported a £10.7 million loss in its last full financial year, but aims to turn its fortunes around by improving customer experience, business efficiency and its digital offering.
Clintons’ sales are still down over a longer period, with group LFLs in the 22 weeks to New Year’s Day dropping 1.4 per cent year-on-year.
Willson-Rymer commented: “Since I joined Clintons, we have had a single-minded focus on the customer.
“Our Christmas trading update recognises the positive impact of this approach. Going forward, there is clearly more work to be done and I am looking at this within my strategic review.
“Despite a tough retail climate, we remain in line with the board’s expectations.”
The group currently operates 771 stores, a portfolio that many industry commentators consider too large in the current retail landscape.
Simon Chinn, Lead Consultant at retail analyst group Conlumino, said: “While Clintons has managed to secure some growth, the pace of the uplift is anaemic, especially when set against a two per cent decline in LFL sales over the same period last year.
“Moreover, as Clintons has closed stores over the past year total group sales are likely to be in negative territory.”
Reflecting the opinion of the retailer’s CEO, he added: “Longer term we believe Clintons has a lot more work to do, especially on the digital and online aspects of their proposition.”