Currys stores in shift out of high street

THE RECOVERY in the property market has prompted Dixons, the electrical retailer, to accelerate the shift of its Currys chain from the high street to out-of-town sites.

The group intends to close 100 high street shops this year, cutting the number to between 230 and 240 - about half the amount when Dixons took it over in 1984. It has opened about 160 out-of- town superstores since then and aims to have a national chain of between 200 and 250.

About one-fifth of electrical sales are made in out-of-town superstores at the moment, but the proportion has been growing. Dixons believes electrical retailing will follow the trend established by do-it-yourself retailers, where superstores now account for more than half of sales.

Robert Shrager, Dixons' corporate finance director, said store closures had been held up by the slump in the property market and among retailers, which made it more difficult to find tenants. The group has appointed Conrad Ritblat Sinclair Goldsmith to review its portfolio.

Eighty stores will be affected immediately, and some will be closed until new tenants are found. The stores are those in competition with superstores. The cost of the rationalisation programme will be disclosed with Dixons full- year results, due next month.

The Dixons chain, which sells computers, videos and stereos rather than fridges and cookers, will remain on the high street. Comet, the rival chain owned by Kingfisher, already has a substantial share of its stores in out-of- town developments.

Mr Shrager said the group remained committed to the high street, although the number of Currys stores there would continue to fall as superstores were opened. 'That gives us a foot in both camps.'

Opening superstores may also become more difficult following recent comments from John Gummer, Secretary of State for the Environment, about the damage caused to town centres by out-of- town retail parks, which have made it harder to get planning permission.

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