Comet profit warning shocks investors

The retail sector is continuing to suffer at the hands of the housing market slowdown with the Comet electrical goods chain warning yesterday that it is heading for a loss because of disappointing sales of refrigerators and washing machines.

The company, part of the pan-European Kesa Electricals giant, believes that people are unable to move home and are not splashing out on new household appliances. Comet is also suffering because more people are shopping online.

The scale of the setback during the three months of the year to the end of July surprised analysts. Sales at the chain of 251 stores fell by a thumping 9.9 per cent. This is far worse than the rival electrical chain Currys, which has reported sales 7 per cent lower.

The company defended its position and said it had protected margins by refusing to slash prices to draw buyers into its stores. "One day the cycle will tick up – in the meantime the business is refusing to chase unprofitable revenue," said an adviser. Sales of laptops and televisions were more resilient, although the company admitted "we now anticipate Comet will make a loss in the first half".

Kesa's arguments did not satisfy the stock market, which marked its shares down by nearly 10 per cent. Analysts slashed profit forecasts for the current year. Overall, Kesa, which takes in the French electrical chain Darty and other retail outlets operating throughout Belgium, Holland and Slovakia, reported a 4.7 fall in sales for the opening quarter. Darty fared better than Comet with sales down by 3.2 per cent, but conditions in France remain tough and the scale of the slowdown also caused concern in the market.

Nevertheless, the chain remains on the lookout for suitable acquisitions. Darty had 150,000 subscribers at the end of July for its Darty Box, a combined internet, digital-television and telephone package and is hoping to sign up another 100,000 customers by next April.

Jean-Noel Labroue, the chief executive, said: "We are still in the middle of the storm. Trading conditions across all our markets deteriorated particularly in the UK and have not changed since the period end.

"As we did not expect to see any improvement in the short term, we put in place a robust action plan to protect margins, adjust costs and generate cash."

Elsewhere, Kesa's newer ventures in Spain proved disappointing, "reflecting very poor market conditions".

Stock analysts at Landsbanki warned: "Growth of the internet channel looks likely to create major problems threatening both market share and margins."

The concern was shared by the broker Citi, which said the deterioration across the group "should surprise the market on the downside". It expects a fall of 10-15 per cent in profits for the year to £115m-£120m. The shares finished 15.5p lower at 142.5p.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Sport
wimbledonScot will face Ivo Karlovic next
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Sales Assistant / Buyer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test