Short-lived sales boost

Christmas proved a strong retail sales period, but it is unlikely to last. The number of people shopping in the UK on 27 December was almost one-fifth higher than last year. However, experts warn that any sign of recovery could prove a false dawn.

Ocado flotation possible in 2010

Dealers reckon that the prospects for online grocer Ocado are so good, that we could soon see a stock market flotation. There was a near 50% rise in the key Christmas week's sales and a robust performance from Ocado in the valuable trading weeks leading up to Christmas. The stock market flotation price tag could be over 600m. The flotation would be by way of an initial public offering.

Ocado has a hugely successful deal with Waitrose to sell the latter's food online. Ocado said sales had risen by 49% to 8.9m year-on-year in the week to 26 December. In the four weeks to 26 December, like-for-like sales increased by 30% to 40.8m. Despite the bad weather at Christmas, Ocado delivered 41,198 customer orders in the trading week to 26 December, a rise of nearly one-third over the same period in 2008. In the four weeks to 26 December, it delivered almost 300,000 food orders (average food order worth 136) up over one-third from the same period last year.

Ocado, set up 10 years ago by three ex-employees of Goldman Sachs, has competed aggressively, matching Tesco's prices on over 7,000 branded goods, introducing internet-only prices and increasing its product range by creating a butchering department.

burger chain slows its UK growth

Clapham House, which owns the Gourmet Burger Kitchen chain, is slowing down its growth in the UK, due to the lack of evidence of a solid recovery in the economy. Clapham put the Tootsies restaurant chain into administration last October, which threw up a 4.1m loss.

The restaurant group has opened two new Gourmet Burger Kitchens in London during the current financial year, but does not plan to open any more before the end of March 2010. It plans to establish 150 Gourmet Burger Kitchen sites in the UK a major increase from the 51 restaurants trading currently. Pre-tax profit in the latest financial year fell to 1.3m, compared with 1.47m last year, while sales rose 13% to 22.5m.