Dixons leads trading boom

DIXONS, the country's biggest electrical retailer, is set to join a host of other high-street chains in reporting buoyant Christmas trading next week.

Booming demand for personal computers and other electronic gadgets in 1995 is expected to boost pre-tax profits by 50 per cent to around pounds 40m, when Dixons announces first half figures to end-September on Wednesday.

Last Friday John Lewis said it had enjoyed the best Christmas ever with sales at its Waitrose supermarkets up 14 per cent in Christmas week and 30 per cent in the lead-up to New Year. John Lewis department stores lifted sales by more than 20 per cent in some branches.

This week the City expects Boots, Storehouse, Argos and Selfridges to join the party, all reporting good news.

"Over Christmas trading seems to have gone very well. Like most years, Christmas seems to have come later, but with a bigger peak," said Andrew Hughes, retail analyst at brokers UBS.

Dixons' computer superstore PC World and the Dixons chain have led the way, with household electricals also selling robustly at Currys and its out-of-town superstores.

The results cap a landmark year for the chain. Chairman Stanley Kalms was knighted in the New Year's honours list, just days after Dixons entered the FT-SE 100 index, a remarkable turnaround from horrendous US losses in 1994.

It has now left North America, beefed up management and also capitalised as rivals such as Comet, part of Woolworths group Kingfisher, have struggled in a fiercely competitive market.

The City has also largely shrugged off worries about Dixon's controversial warranty sales, which have been investigated by the Office of Fair Trading and have provided much of pre-tax profit.

"Whether by luck or judgment, there's been product growth and declining competition. Electricals have been zooming and white goods strong," said Mr Hughes.