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Thursday, June 17, 1999 Published at 13:16 GMT 14:16 UK

Business: The Company File

Major revamp for Argos

Argos was taken over by GUS with a hostile £1.9bn bid

Another top retailer is to reshape its operations following poor profits.

Catalogue shopping giant, Argos, is to undergo a major re-vamp according to Great Universal Stores, which bought the company last year for £1.9bn.

Since the acquisition, profits at the Argo chain have dropped to £116m in first 11 months of trading, down £7m on the same period a year earlier. Like-for-like sales declined by 1%.

To boost sales, the number of product lines carried by Argos is to be increased by a third.

Argos will now sell around 7,300 products and will also move into the fashion market with a new catalogue of clothing and footwear.

Interactive TV service

Also planned is an Argos interactive TV shopping service allowing customers to buy from home.

Finance director David Tyler said that from August, customers would be able to order from the Argos catalogue by telephone and have items delivered within 48 hours.

He said Argos would also launch a TV shopping trial on Open, the digital channel run by British Interactive Broadcasting , from October.

"We think Argos is ideally placed to be a good retailer in that format," he said.

Argos hits profits

The new plans were announced as parent company GUS reported a 9.6% fall in final profits.

Earnings were hit by the impact of sluggish consumer demand for home shopping as well as the problems in the Argos division.

Pre-tax profits before exceptional items slumped to £513.6m from £555.1m.

The figures, however, were a little higher than City expectations and the final dividend was 14.4 pence, up from 14.0.

GUS shares recovered on the news. By mid-day in London they were trading at 654.5p, up more than 5%.

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