Byline: James Fallon

LONDON — Selfridges PLC had a slow Christmas thanks to travel woes.
The U.K. department store retailer said sales at its Oxford Street flagship were up only 1 percent in the six-week period ended Jan. 6 as a result of the continuing problems with train services into London. Rail services throughout Britain have been disrupted for months following a train crash last fall and heavy rains that have caused flooding in outlying areas.
Peter Williams, the retailer’s finance director, said the train problems are expected to continue for at least the next month. However, the rail operator Railtrack has said that they should be eliminated by mid to late April.
“The problems with the rail network didn’t help,” Williams said in an interview. “But the other issue was that we had less merchandise to clear because we’ve been better at managing stock levels. As a result, we had fewer discount sales through the books after Christmas. But our margins are much better and, in the end, we should end up making more money.”
Selfridges was lifted by the performance of its other store in Manchester, where sales were up 22 percent in the six-week period.
In the 23-week period ended Jan. 6, sales at the company’s Oxford Street flagship were up 5 percent on the previous year. At the Manchester store, sales increased 22 percent. Williams said the strongest-performing categories in the second half have been women’s wear and beauty.
The slower growth at Selfridges contrasts with figures from the British Retail Consortium that showed there was a burst in sales growth just prior to Christmas, as consumers left their shopping until very late. As a result, the growth in same-store sales in the three months ended Dec. 31, 2000 averaged 2.4 percent compared with 2.2 percent in November. Overall, same-store sales growth last year averaged 3.4 percent, the consortium said.

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