Topps bears up despite economic strife

There was a small reason for optimism about the retail sector yesterday when Topps Tiles delivered results that show it is at least holding its own.

The tile specialist saw sales in the half-year to March slip by £2.6m to £86.6m – solid enough given wider economic strife, according to City analysts.

Its profits fell 23 per cent to £5.6m but at least the company is paying some sort of dividend, flat at 0.5p. Topps has about 320 stores and a 26 per cent market share.

The chief executive Matthew Williams says the group competes with the large do-it-yourself stores and local independents. The reason to go to Topps, he said, is "we are an authority on the only product that we sell and we are fanatical about service".

Sales dropped 4.7 per cent on a like-for-like basis, but things have improved a bit lately.

However, the group, which also trades as Tile Clearing House, warned that trading conditions remain challenging and it was too early to say whether this marked the start of an improving trend.

The stockbroker Seymour Pierce said the profits figure were short of the £6.8m it expected, but recent trading meant it stuck by its full-year forecast for profits £13m.

Its analyst Freddie George said: "We remain concerned that the DIY sheds... which are improving their 'home' offers, will start to impact Topps' revenues."

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