Page last updated at 09:56 GMT, Thursday, 15 January 2009

Sales slide at Currys and Argos

Currys store
Currys owner DSG said it was planning further cost cuts of 20m

Sales at several of Britain's top retail chains have fallen markedly as a result of the economic slowdown.

DSG International, which owns Currys and PC World, said like-for-like sales - which ignore new stores - had dropped 10% in the three months to 10 January.

Home Retail Group said like-for-like sales at its Argos chain had fallen 7.5% in the 18 weeks to 3 January.

DIY chain Homebase, which is also owned by Home Retail Group, saw like-for-like sales in the same period drop 10.2%.

Many retailers are struggling as consumers cut back on spending amid rising jobless figures, falling house prices and recession worries.

Among other major companies reporting sales for the Christmas period:

• Discount fashion chain Primark saw a strong increase in sales despite the wider slowdown in UK consumer spending, with total sales up 18% in the 16 weeks to 3 January

• Europe's biggest independent mobile phone retailer, Carphone Warehouse, saw third quarter like-for-like retail sales rise 6.5%, while revenue at its telecoms division Talk Talk, fell 2%

• Mother and baby specialist Mothercare saw its like-for-like group sales rise 4.2% in the 13 weeks to 9 January - helped partly by international sales, which jumped 49%

• British housebuilder Barratt Developments said total home completions fell 23.8% in the six months to 31 December, while forward sales totalled just 456m, much lower than December 2007's 1,263m figure

• Car accessories and bicycles retailer Halfords saw an accelerating fall in underlying third quarter sales, down 7.8% after a 1.1% first-half fall, as demand for in-car satellite navigation systems weakened.

'Challenging' year

Home Retail Group's chief executive Terry Duddy said: "Our markets continue to be significantly impacted by the sharp reduction in consumer spending.

"As previously indicated, we expect the trading environment for the next financial year to be extremely challenging."

In a statement the company said that while sales overall had fallen at Argos during the period, consumer electronics sales had risen "driven principally by video gaming".

Keith Bowman, at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers said: "Although sales have materialised broadly in line with analysts' forecasts, there are few crumbs of comfort for investors."

"The home furnishing arena, given the downturn in the housing market, unsurprisingly remains on the back foot."

DSG International said it had benefitted from the New Year sales - with sales up 2% in the two weeks to 10 January.

Chief executive John Browett said: "The sales pattern through the period was as we anticipated, with customers waiting for the post-Christmas sales to purchase discretionary products, particularly televisions and laptops."

But he warned that there was no sign of any sustained improvement in the economy.

"We expect 2009 to be challenging across most of our markets and are actively planning and managing the business," he said.

The group said it was planning further cost reductions in the current year of 20m because of the trading environment, bringing total savings for the year to 95m.

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