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City braced for bad news over Christmas retail figures

January 01, 2019 / Simon Goodley

The City is bracing itself, to discover just how brutal Christmas 2018 was for the UK high street, with a string of crucial announcements threatening to add to retailing’s woes.The key period comes as panic mounts within the sector after the Sports Direct tycoon Mike Ashley said last month that trading was so bad for many chains it “will literally smash them to pieces”. Music and film retailer HMV and regional menswear chain Greenwoods have both slumped into insolvency over the past few days.Sector analysts will now be looking towards a Christmas trading update on Thursday from the industry bellwether Next, for an indication of how difficult trading has been. Analysts at broker Jefferies said last week that in-store sales at the fashion chain could be down 13% on last year, and predicting that the retailer would downgrade its profit guidance. In the three months to the end of October, Next’s shop sales were down 8%. The clothing retailer’s numbers will be followed next week by other well-known high street names, including Marks & Spencer and Debenhams, with trading at the latter thought to have been so poor that some market watchers forecast it will be forced into an emergency stock exchange statement ahead of its annual meeting next week.