Dixons shrugs off disruption from collapse of Comet


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The Independent Online

Dixons Retail, the owner of Currys and PC World, said it has not seen "much disruption" from the stock liquidation at failed rival Comet, as its UK business returned to profit for the first time in five years.

Comet, which had 236-stores when it collapsed in early November, plans to close all its shops by 18 December if a buyer cannot be found.

This means that most of Comet's 6,600 staff will have lost their jobs before Christmas.

Sebastian James, the chief executive of Dixons, which has 1,200 stores across Europe, said: "We were worried it was going to be incredibly disruptive and it has not been."

While Comet claims to be offering significant discounts, he added: "Customers are going into Comet and being disappointed. I have seen them go into Comet, come out and go into our stores."

Mr James said he was bemused to see his collapsed rival selling items, such as towels and bikes, for the first time, although it is relatively common for administrators to sell unfamiliar items to maximise sales and returns for creditors.

Analysts have estimated that if, as expected, Comet disappears from the high street, then Currys and PC World could mop up £230m of the failed chain's £1bn-plus sales.

Mr James said: "Our market share is 19.8 per cent. I would be disappointed if we don't get our fair share."

Dixons has already hired 1,000 temporary staff for Christmas from Comet, including 171 permanent roles.

Dixons UK and Ireland delivered a £5.6m operating profit over the 24 weeks to 13 October, following a loss of £6m last year. The group's domestic business grew underlying sales rose by 3 per cent over the period, which was before Comet collapsed.

On Christmas, Mr James eulogised about "tablet-tastic" sales of devices, such as Apple's iPad and Samsung's Galaxy, adding: "We are selling four times as many [tablets] as last year."

While losses narrowed at Dixons to £22.2m over the 24 weeks, it was dragged down by weak performances in southern Europe and £17.1m losses at its online operation, Pixmania.