Kesa looks to refits to boost Darty sales in lacklustre French market

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The Independent Online

Kesa Electricals is rolling out a new look for its French chain Darty in an attempt to mitigate the effect of waning consumer confidence in its most important market.

Kesa Electricals is rolling out a new look for its French chain Darty in an attempt to mitigate the effect of waning consumer confidence in its most important market.

The group, spun out of Kingfisher last summer, plans to refit up to 25 Darty stores a year.

Jean Noel Labroue, the chief executive, yesterday said it was "totally impossible" to declare that the French economy had turned the corner. "We are facing very difficult markets in France for the third year in a row," he added. His comments came as the company reported maiden pre-tax profits of £179m, up from £122m the previous year. Its UK arm Comet was behind a 5 per cent rise in underlying retail profit to £203m.

After battling the negative publicity generated by the competition probe into extended warranties, Comet's like-for-like sales edged 0.8 per cent higher during the year. The figure was hit by a 17.4 per cent shortfall in sales of extended warranties.

The company expects to implement the remedies recommended by the Competition Commission inquiry - namely, to make more information available to customers about extended warranties and make it easier for them to cancel their purchases of them - by Christmas.

M. Labroue said the move to reposition Comet as a specialist electrical goods retailer had paid off, citing strong growth in sales of new-wave technologies. He brushed off the potential impact of Kingfisher's attempt to make its B&Q chain compete more aggressively with its former stablemate by selling more electrical goods. The group will open 12 new larger Comet stores, which can accommodate bigger ranges, this year and close eight.

Underlying sales at Darty rose 1 per cent last year, although its cost-cutting programme helped the division's retail profit in euros to rise by 5 per cent.

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