M&S Christmas sales increase hopefully bodes well for small businesses

A canny combination of cut-price champers and high-cost celeb-studded TV advertising trounced any threats from snow storms and economic frailties. Overall sales in the 13 weeks to January 1 were up 4%, with clothing shooting up 4.7% and food coming in at 3.5%.

While the City reckoned M&S's Christmas sales could have done another £55m during turkey time had it not been for that spot of cold we had, new CEO Marc Bolland is no doubt feeling rather pleased about such a jolly start to his management. (Read up on his strategy for M&S here.)

M&S's buoyancy and the willingness of consumers to splurge some cash is welcome news for the battered high street. Sparks isn't alone in enjoying the latest spend trend either. Waitrose declared this Christmas its most prosperous ever, and is going to open 39 new stores as something of a celebration. House of Fraser rustled up a 8.5% sales increase in the same period, while Ocado's festive sales whooshed up a mega 40%. Even Morrisons' more humble 1% year-on-year Christmas sales increase is more encouraging than the 0.6% the City had forecasted.

All of which, we hope, bodes well for smaller retailers across the nation. The peaks and troughs of the biggest players in any industry can often be an early litmus test for consumer trends across that sector. So, fingers crossed, those happy-to-splurge customers will start spending as enthusiastically in M&S and co's smaller cousins too, and give small business retail the boost it now needs to overcome the VAT hike and wider economic falterings.

Are you a retail business? We'd love to hear how Christmas sales were for you and whether you're hopeful about 2011 in comments below.

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