Home Retail Group reports Argos sales rise

Argos store
Image caption Argos saw its first like-for-like sales growth in five years

Argos has reported a rise in underlying sales for the first time in five years, its owner Home Retail Group has said.

Like-for-like sales at Argos - which strip out the impact of new store space - rose 2.1% for the year to 2 March, with total sales up to £3.93bn.

But the group's other major business, Homebase, has continued to struggle.

As a result Home Retail's underlying pre-tax profits fell for the fifth year in a row, falling to £91.1m from £101.6m a year ago.

Chief executive Terry Duddy described the results as "a good outcome to what has been a challenging year".

The company has been working to revamp Argos by increasing sales through its website and using its "check and reserve" service.

Electronics boost

Products bought through these channels now represent more than 50% of Argos's sales.

Home Retail Group said Argos was also helped by sales growth in a number of categories, most notably in consumer electronics where demand for tablet computers has been strong.

Analysts also said that sales had been helped by the demise of competitors such as Comet in the last year.

"This has led to the retailer enjoying a boost in sales of tablets, white goods and core electricals which, with electricals making up around half of Argos's sales, has helped to offset an ongoing sluggish performance in [the home division]," said retail analysts Conlumino.

In contrast, sales at DIY chain Homebase have continued to fall, despite the business increasing its market share, and operating profit more than halved last year from £23m to £11m.

The business has struggled with unfavourable weather, a sluggish housing market and weak consumer confidence, according to analysts.

Home Retail Group said it expected market conditions to remain difficult over the coming year, but said it was in a strong financial position which left it "well positioned for the economic recovery".

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