‘Volatile’ period left Argos with flat sales

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Argos has reported flat sales following a “volatile” Christmas trading period in which high demand for Black Friday promotions skewed its performance.

Home Retail Group said Argos’s like-for-like sales for the 18 weeks to January 3 were broadly unchanged at 0.1 per cent higher, as strong TV and video gaming sales offset a decline in jewellery. Total sales lifted 0.8 per cent to £1.8bn.

Chief executive John Walden said Argos sales were up by 45 per cent on Black Friday after it received more than 13.5 million visitors to its digital channels, three times last year’s number of visitors.

But he added: “The draw of discounts affected trade both before and after that busy weekend as consumers satisfied their Christmas shopping lists with bargains.”

As a result of the trading volatility, Argos pursued a more cautious trading stance over the festive period to protect margins.

Home Retail’s DIY chain Homebase saw total sales fall 2.7 per cent to £451m, as the group closed 12 stores in the period, in line with its October plan to close a quarter of its 323 stores by 2018 due to poor sales performances. Like-for like sales at Homebase rose 0.6 per cent. The group remains on track to meet full-year profits targets.

During the seasonal period, Homebase sold 120,000 real Christmas trees and almost half a million pots of white emulsion paint as customers looked to freshen up their homes.