Of the legions of retailers reporting today, Home Retail Group had a less stellar set of results. Argos’ first half sales slipped 1.5% to £1.7bn, despite massive investment in turning itself into a ‘click-and-collect’ retailer. Meanwhile DIY chain Homebase’s dropped 2.2% to £816m.
But Homebase has been shuttering unprofitable stores like there’s no tomorrow and its like-for-like sales were actually up a healthy 5.6%. Argos, on the other hand, has been expanding on the ground, with new concessions in Homebase and Sainsbury’s.
That meant its total sales fell a more acceptable 0.4% in the second quarter, compared to a 2.6% decline in the previous three months. But in the first half revenues were still down 3.4% on a like-for-like basis. This, the company admitted, was largely due to falling electrical sales, mainly of TVs, tablets and white goods (which makes for a less-than-flattering comparison with Dixons Carphone).
And Christmas may not bring any cheer either. ‘The outcome for the Group's full-year generally depends upon the important Christmas trading period at Argos which, this year, seems less predictable than usual due to a less certain promotional environment,’ chief executive John Walden warned.
Shareholders were certainly less than impressed, with Home Retail Group shares down more than 5.7% to 140.2p around midday. And they’ve already fallen almost 29% this year. Retail is nothing if not a dog-eat-dog world.