Dixons, Halfords and Home Retail Group see sales slide

Snowy shoppers
Image caption Many retailers have reported being hampered by the wintry pre-Christmas weather

Some of the best-known retailers in the UK have reported falling sales and warned of tough trading conditions.

Dixons, Halfords and Argos-owner Home Retail Group all saw sales slide over the Christmas trading period.

Dixons said it was "cautious" about the economic outlook while Argos reported "challenging and volatile" trading conditions.

Both Dixons and Halfords said full-year profits would be at the lower end of expectations.

Halfords saw like-for-like sales - which strip out the effect of store openings and closures - fall 6.6% in its stores in the last 13 weeks of 2010.

This included a fall in bicycle sales "as fewer childrens cycles were given as presents".

However, there was sales growth of 1.6% at its car repair centres.,

Dixons saw like-for-like sales fall 2% in the 12 weeks to 8 January and reported fewer customers in its shops in the wintry weather in the week before Christmas.

But it said there had been "strong trade" in the Christmas sales, adding customers appeared keen to snap up big ticket items such as 3D televisions and white goods ahead the of rise of VAT from 17.5% to 20% which came in on 4 January,

Argos, where total sales fell 3.2% in the 19 weeks to 1 January, said its video gaming and television sales had struggled, while demand for its jewellery was also "weak".

It said more customers had used the internet to order goods for delivery to reserve for store collection, saying that its application for the iPhone and other Apple devices had been downloaded 1.2 million times and used to make almost a million reservations in the period.

Among other retailers giving trading updates on Thursday:

  • Thorntons said its overall sales grew by 3.9% to £83.7m in the 14 weeks to 8 January. However this was driven by sales of its goods in supermarkets and other stores. Like-for-like sales at its own shops fell 5.9% with "adverse weather conditions" blamed
  • Game Group saw overall sales fall by 4.1% and by 3.3% in the UK and Republic of Ireland in the five weeks to 8 January - in a "difficult PC and video games market".

In the past fortnight a string of retailers, including Next, HMV and Mothercare, have said that sales over the crucial Christmas trading period were hit by December's severe weather.

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