Tablets are a tonic for Currys and Argos


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The Independent Online

Buoyant demand for tablet devices powered better-than-expected sales at Dixons Retail's Currys and Home Retail's Argos over Christmas, but neither group sees any improvement in UK consumer spending in the year ahead.

Dixons enjoyed an "uplift" in sales of white goods over the final four weeks of its trading period after the collapse of rival Comet, which coincided with the closure of all its 236 stores.

But Dixons played down the prospect of it receiving a major boost from the other administrations of the entertainment specialist HMV and camera retailer Jessops during the last nine days, which also saw the DVD rental firm Blockbuster collapse.

Dixons sold five tablet devices a second in the week before Christmas, which helped its sales in the UK jump by 8 per cent over the 12 weeks to 5 January. A storming performance in the Nordic nations helped the group's revenues rise by 3 per cent, but southern Europe's economic woes dragged sales down 8 per cent in that region.

It was a similar story on tablets and white goods at Argos, which grew sales by 2.7 per cent in the 18 weeks to 5 January. This led Home Retail, which also owns the DIY chain Homebase, to upgrade its profit forecasts by about £10m on the previous market consensus of £73m for this financial year.

Sales at Argos delivered from mobile devices rose 125 per cent, which helped internet revenues surge to account for nearly half the retailer's total.

Terry Duddy, Home Retail's chief executive, said: "It has been a consumer electronic goods Christmas strongly driven by tablets."

However, like-for-like sales dipped by 3.9 per cent at Homebase, partly due to continued weak demand on big-ticket items.

But Mr Duddy said he expects "consumer confidence to remain subdued", while Sebastian James, the chief executive of Dixons, commented he had "not seen a sausage" in terms of any uptick in spending in the sector.

Home Retail cited good cash generation over Christmas, which should leave it with more than £300m on its balance sheet at the year end.