Dixons delights with digital boost to Christmas store sales

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The Independent Online

Dixons said yesterday that strong sales of digital radios and camera telephones had boosted its Christmas takings as it reported a like-for-like sales gain of 4 per cent in its core UK operations over the eight weeks to 10 January.

The result was a relief for followers of Dixons since 2001 and 2002 were both dire Christmases for the electrical goods retailer, which also owns Currys and The Link mobile phone chain.

"The numbers over Christmas were not a big boom, but they were clearly progress," said John Clare, chief executive of the retailer.

Despite other stalwarts of the high street enduring a tough time, Dixons appears to have prospered by learning from mistakes it had made in the two previous years.

"Marketing and promotion was much more aggressive and we were more competitive on pricing," Mr Clare said.

For the six months to 15 November, profits rose 9 per cent to £105.7m, excluding goodwill, on sales 21 per cent higher at £3.1bn.

UK sales were flat on a like-for-like basis, but overseas operations rose 3 per cent.

Mr Clare confirmed speculation that he planned to close smaller high street Dixons stores as he rolled out a strategy of opening larger, out-of-town, centres, which were cheaper to run.

The company already has four so-called Dixons XL stores: in Birmingham, Cardiff, Swansea and Hull.

Another six are set to be opened this year. For every one opened, Dixons will close three smaller high street stores, Mr Clare said.

The chief executive also fought off suggestions that Dixons is coming under pressure from the likes of Tesco and Argos, which are encroaching on its patch. "We have a broader range, and we will try to use our advantage with our specialist staff and our after-sales approach," Mr Clare said.

Dixons' shares moved up 7.75p to 153.5p.