Belfast Telegraph

Sizzling summer and store revamp brings boost for Homebase

By Simon Neville

Homebase has managed to lift first-half sales for the first time in four years thanks to the warm summer and spending millions of pounds revamping its stores.

The revival marks an impressive turnaround for Terry Duddy, the departing chief executive of parent company Home Retail Group.

He is stepping down next year, with sister business Argos recording a fifth-successive quarter of growth. However, the revamped Homebase stores dented Home Retail's profits.

Interim, pre-tax profits fell 70% from £46.7m to just £14.2m on sales up 2.6% from £2.5bn to £2.6bn.

Around 15 stores will have £1m refits.

However, around 10 stores will close and dozens more could shut over the next couple of years.

Duddy said: "We've got about 75 stores with lease renewals coming up in the next three-to-five years and we will be looking closely at whether we keep them or not."

Like-for-like sales at Homebase for the six months to the end of August were up 5.9% compared with the same period last year.

At Argos, the company is gearing up for the all-important Christmas period.

It is looking like tablets are set to dominate wish lists.

Argos is hoping to cash in on the tablet demand by releasing its own £99 device.

Like-for-like sales at Argos rose 2.3% over the period and five new "digital concept" stores will open in the next few weeks.

This will see the company's famous catalogue disappear to be replaced by in-store tablets instead.

Sports Direct also saw gross profits soar 19.4% to £199.8m in the nine weeks to the end of September, with sales up 15.1% to £463.7m.

The company said it was pleased to beat tough comparisons against last year's Olympics.

Belfast Telegraph