THE owner of Argos has posted a further sharp slump in sales.
Home Retail Group, which also owns Homebase, highlighted a significant decline in the consumer electronics market as like-for-like sales at Argos dived by 9.6% in the 13 weeks to May 28. Total sales, which include the addition of new store space, were down 8.1% at £817m, it added.
It is the latest gloomy update from the mass market retail business, which has felt the brunt of low consumer confidence and rising costs.
Chief executive Terry Duddy said: “Trading conditions, particularly at Argos, have proved to be more difficult and volatile than anticipated.”
At Homebase, like-for-like sales were up 1.6% after sales of garden-related products including furniture, plants and exterior paints did well.
Home Retail shares slid 13% as City analysts slashed their forecasts for the company’s financial year to next February.
Freddie George, an analyst at Seymour Pierce stockbrokers, said the decline in Argos same-store sales was much bigger than his forecast of 4%.
He said: “Argos remains under pressure from a weak consumer environment while the food retailers grab share in its core markets.”
Argos said the weak consumer electronics market accounted for much of the reduction in first-quarter sales, although it said recent industry data showed it maintained its share of this market during March and April.
This was offset by strong sales of toys and seasonal goods such as garden furniture and barbecues.
Stock clearance and higher shipping costs also had an impact on margins at Argos, which recently announced an 18% decline in operating profits to £219m.