Financial News

  • 17 January 2014, 11:19

Xmas Sales: Online Boosts Big High St Names

A string of once-struggling retailers have reported strong sales over the Christmas season, largely thanks to digital growth taking off.

Argos, PC World and Currys - all brands that had faced uncertain futures amid a slow transition to online retailing - claimed success despite the tough consumer economy, strong competition and heavy discounting.

Primark, Halfords and online grocer Ocado also updated investors on their trading - reporting solid growth.

Argos revealed its best Christmas performance for more than 10 years - with its transition from catalogues to becoming a digitally-led retailer paying dividends with nearly half of sales made online.

It credited another strong Christmas for tablet computers and the recent launch of Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4 games consoles helping like-for-like sales jump 3.8% in the 18 weeks to January 4.

Argos said the strong sales of consumer electronics was partially offset by a drop in sales across audio, photographic, homewares and jewellery while toy sales remained "broadly flat" despite best-sellers such as children's tablets, Teksta robotic puppy and Furbies proving a hit.

A surge in the use of smartphones and tablets accounted for a fifth of all sales and its parent, Home Retail Group which also owns Homebase, said it now expected full year group profits to come in at the top end of forecasts.

The company also confirmed an earlier story by Sky News that Argos managing director John Walden would succeed chief executive Terry Duddy at the helm from March 14.

Mr Duddysaid Home Retail hoped to achieve more than half of all sales via the internet in the next financial year.

The owner of PC World and Curryscontinued to benefit from the demise of rival Comet before Christmas 2012.

Dixons Retail said its business took off "like a rocket" after a record Boxing Day for the electricals retailer, with more than 100,000 of sales going through tills every minute on the day.

The company said that while it saw strong business over the 'Black Friday' weekend in early December, trading was quiet until its sales began.

Like-for-like sales between November 1 and January 4 were 5% higher - with online growth of 23% - with chief executive Sebastian James describing the Christmas performance as "lively ...with plenty of ups and downs".

Primark revealed "excellent" Christmas trading, as the discount chain maintained its squeeze on struggling rival Marks & Spencer.

Sales for the Europe-wide business rose 14% in the 16 weeks to January 4.

Ocado posted gross sales growth of 21.3% in the six weeks to January 5, reflecting strong trading in the seven days up to Christmas.

Halfords said a surge in bicycle sales ahead of Christmas helped its third quarter like-for-like sales rise 5.9%.

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