The focus of last year's post-Christmas update was Next's post-Christmas profit warning. This year however it was largely good news for the retailer as they reported that sales in the 54 days to 24 December 2017 were up by 1.5% compared to the same period in 2016. This is against Next's expectation in November 2017 that sales would fall by 0.3% for the period.
These results were unexpected against the backdrop of low consumer confidence and reduced spending. A Retail Economics poll of 2000 consumers indicated that just under half of consumers spent less in Christmas 2017 than 2016 and a quarter do not plan to shop in the January sales. Indeed, the general consensus is that many retailers will have had a tough Christmas period.
This appears to be the view of some hedge funds. Recent press reports have suggested that certain hedge funds are exploiting anticipated lower Christmas sales by shorting the shares they own in UK retailers.
Hedge funds could make a serious loss if other retailers experienced unexpected sales growth over the Christmas period resulting in a boost to their share price. However if retailers are still feeling the brunt of an unstable currency, structural decline and low consumer demand, the hedge funds will be looking to capitalise. With around 20 retailers due to release their Christmas results this week, watch this space.