GUS sent reeling by first fall in sales at Argos for six years

GUS underlined the calamitous state of the high street yesterday when the retail-to-financial conglomerate reported the first fall in underlying sales at its Argos chain for six years.

David Tyler, GUS's finance director, said like-for-like sales at Argos fell 1 per cent during the three months to 31 March. The group does not expect sales to pick up all year. "We are planning on the assumption that things won't get better for at least six to 12 months," Mr Tyler said.

The 592-strong chain of catalogue stores is regarded as a shopping bellwether because it sells such a wide variety of goods. It leaves clothing and food alone but stocks pretty much everything else.

GUS said consumer spending in the UK had "slowed sharply" since November. This, combined with soaring costs - particularly in business rates and energy bills - has spelt bad news for scores of the country's retailers, several of whom have been forced out of business.

Although GUS is mid-way through a strategic review that is expected to see it spin off its Experian financial services arm, Mr Tyler said the dip in its UK retail fortunes would not put pressure on the board to speed up its decision. "The review is something we're thinking about in the context of long-term shareholder value. We're not too influenced by the vagaries of the consumer cycle in the UK," he said.

Nevertheless, analysts trimmed their pre-tax profit forecasts for the year to March 2006, cutting 4 per cent off their numbers to about £1bn. Shares in the group fell 12p to 901.5p.

At Argos, the fall in sales came in spite of the group's attempt to boost demand by reinvesting gross margin gains in lower prices. In the six months to 31 March, underlying sales were flat, although the cost of shopping at Argos has fallen by 6 per cent in the past year. Demand for "big ticket items" - mainly furniture and white goods - has been particularly weak, the group said, while sales of consumer electronics have held up. The picture was better at Homebase, the home furnishings chain, where like-for-like sales rose 2 per cent during the second half.

Experian continued to power ahead, with a 18 per cent increase in sales at constant exchange rates - its third consecutive year of double-digit growth.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
people
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Ashdown Group: Graduate Application Support Analyst

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Reach Volunteering: External Finance Trustee Needed!

Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...

Christine McCleave: FP&A Analyst

£36,000 - £40,000: Christine McCleave: Are you looking for a new opportunity a...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn