Topps Tiles floored by sales slump in final quarter

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The floor covering specialist Topps Tiles blamed low consumer confidence and falling footfall for a dire fourth quarter, which dragged down its annual profits by more than a third.

Findel, the home shopping specialist, added to the gloom by reporting that its loss widened to £5.6m over the half-year to 30 September, which it described as a period of "extreme difficulty".

On the high street, Topps Tiles' like-for-like sales fell by 2 per cent over the 52 weeks to 1 October, but plummeted by 9.5 per cent over the final three months. Matt Williams, the chief executive, said Topps had raised its market share but admitted: "For us, all the damage was really done in the fourth quarter. It really hit us out of the blue – the lurch down in trade in Q4. It is really down to lower consumer confidence and the decline in footfall."

But the fall in its sales has slowed in the past seven weeks to be down by 6.9 per cent.

Pre-tax profits at Topps Tiles, which has 321 UK stores, slumped by 36 per cent to £7.9m over the year, compared with the 53-week period in 2009-10.

Total sales fell 4 per cent to £175.5m. But the group's gross margin rose to 59.6 per cent, from 58.7 per cent, which Mr Williams attributed to Topps Tiles opening a second warehouse adjacent to its Leicester headquarters. This allowed it to hold more stock from overseas and rely less on third-party distributors.

On the trading front, Mr Williams said he had been surprised that consumers had continued to be "adventurous and inspirational" in their purchasing of tiles since the start of the downturn in 2008, as opposed to relying on "boring" beige and white.