September 13, 2012 / 6:44 AM / 5 years ago

Argos sales rise on demand for gadgets

LONDON (Reuters) - Home Retail HOME.L, Britain’s biggest household goods retailer, posted a 1.4 percent rise in second quarter sales at its Argos stores, ahead of expectations, as demand for gadgets like tablets and e-readers helped offset weakness elsewhere.

The group, which also owns Homebase DIY chain, said on Thursday like for like sales at Argos stores had risen 1.4 percent in the 13 weeks to September 1, ahead of a company compiled consensus of a 0.6 percent decline, with total sales up 1 percent to 867 million pounds.

“At this stage, we expect to deliver full year group benchmark profit in line with current market expectations but, as always, the outcome will depend upon trading at Argos in its peak Christmas period,” Home Retail Group Chief Executive Terry Duddy said in a statement.

Shares in the group, which closed at 99.4 pence on Wednesday, have risen 32 percent in three months after the firm produced forecast-beating underlying first-quarter sales at Argos in June, although it had said it was too early to call a revival in the company’s fortunes.

Many British retailers are under pressure as consumers are squeezed by higher prices, muted wage growth and government austerity measures designed to cut record national debt.

Argos has been particularly hard hit in the downturn because its mainly low-income customers have suffered most and because it also faces intense competition from supermarket chains, specialists and online retailers such as Amazon (AMZN.O).

American John Walden started as Argos’s new managing director in February and has been given free rein to examine all options for the business, including closing some of its 746 shops, which analysts have called for. He will update the market in October.

Like-for-like sales at Homebase, Britain’s No.2 home improvement retailer behind Kingfisher’s B&Q (KGF.L) fell 3.7 percent, slightly ahead of a company compiled consensus of a 3.3 percent decline, with total sales down 3.9 percent to 366 million pounds.

The group said sales had been impacted by poor weather and that market conditions continued to be challenging.

On Wednesday, Kingfisher blamed a soggy summer for a 6 percent fall in like-for-like sales at B&Q, as it posted a 15.5 percent fall in first-half group profit.

Reporting by Neil Maidment

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