Topps could still return to the peak of its form

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The Independent Online

People haven't fallen out with tiles, insists Nick Ounstead, the chief executive of Topps Tiles, who was forced to deliver a profits warning yesterday. The retailer has up to now been a remarkable success story, with like-for-like sales last year, for instance, up 21 per cent.

People haven't fallen out with tiles, insists Nick Ounstead, the chief executive of Topps Tiles, who was forced to deliver a profits warning yesterday. The retailer has up to now been a remarkable success story, with like-for-like sales last year, for instance, up 21 per cent.

The mania of Britons for home improvement seemed to know no bounds. As recently as 10 January, Topps was able to report sales up 15 per cent, for the period since October. Since then, it emerged yesterday, growth has disappeared. January sales were up 5 per cent, February was 3 per cent higher and then March has fallen into negative territory. The company can't even hope for a big boost this Easter holiday as it is traditionally a good time for selling outdoor stuff, not tiles. Its shares closed down 15 per cent at 189p.

Mr Ounstead is sure that it is a market problem (a plunge in consumer spending generally), rather than a problem at Topps and the City was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Topps said the first half will now show like-for-like sales up 8 per cent, hardly a complete disaster. This column has been keen on Topps in the past, and investors should hold on.

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