MFI beats the gloom with 10% jump in sales

By Nigel Cope,City Editor
Thursday 15 November 2001 01:00

The furniture group MFI appeared to buck the trend yesterday when it said it had seen no slowdown in sales following the terrorist attacks on the US.

In the 45 weeks to 10 November like-for-like sales were up 10.3 per cent on the same period last year. This included total sales growth in the UK of 12.1 per cent and underlying UK growth of 7.1 per cent. MFI said sales had "held up well". In the last nine weeks it said total orders, its most representative indicator of activity, were up 30 per cent, though this was against weak comparisons.

John Hancock, MFI's chief executive, said that stripping out the impact of events last year such as the petrol crisis and the floods, total UK sales in the past nine weeks were up by 14-15 per cent. This was in line with the level reported by the group in July. Asked to explain the buoyant sales, Mr Hancock said: "We've got low unemployment and low interest rates. There isn't any evidence of things falling off a cliff as far as consumers are concerned."

MFI said it had seen some impact on its high street stores which it plans to boost to a 20-strong chain by the end of the year. The other weak link was Hygena at Currys where MFI operates 99 concessions within the electricals chain. These have performed below expectations and will now miss their target to break even this year. Howdens joinery business, which supplies jobbing builders, saw like-for-like sales soar 28 per cent in the 45 week period. The shares closed 1.25p higher at 129.25p.

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