David Prosser: Argos continues to confound the critics

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The Independent Online

Outlook For all the doom and gloom in the latest update from Home Retail Group on trading at Argos, it is worth a bit of perspective. The market for big-ticket electricals may have been hit by the squeeze on household incomes, but Argos is retaining its share. Although the supermarkets have parked their tanks on its lawns, they do not appear to be doing much damage. Nor do online competitors.

This, in other words, is not the next HMV, despite the metropolitan prejudice that sometimes sees Argos portrayed as anachronistic.

Part of the explanation is Argos's phenomenal growth online, where a third of sales now take place (helped by a more competent delivery service than so many of its rivals'). It is proud of its 1.7 million iPhone app downloads. It is continuing to invest in stores, too.

The macroeconomic environment is such that Argos's numbers may get worse before they get better. Still, for anyone who worries retailers in this marketplace have no chance of competing with juggernauts such as Tesco and Amazon, Argos continues to offer hope.