Big chains beat summer blues

Consumer electronics and multi-channel lead sales for major retailers over ‘quiet’ summer period
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Retailers including John Lewis, Argos and Dixons Retail all saw profits grow over the summer, despite poor weather and low footfall due to the Olympics and Paralympics.

Multi-channel sales and consumer electronics led the way, showing that retailers must continue to update both product ranges and customer channels if they hope to grow.

In the 13 weeks to September 1st, total sales for retailer Argos reached £867m, with a growth of one per cent, whilst like- for-like sales increased by 1.4 per cent.

The firm revealed that consumer electronics were a key sector in this quarter, driven by strong growth in tablets and e-readers.

Its Check & Reserve service continued to impress, with sales via the service growing by 24 per cent, representing 30 per cent of total Argos sales.

Total internet sales grew 16 per cent and represented 42 per cent of total sales. Consequently, total multi-channel sales represented 52 per cent of total Argos sales, up from 47 per cent a year earlier. John Lewis revealed its interim results for the half year ending July 28th, with gross sales up 12.8 per cent and like-for-like sales growing by 9.2 per cent. Unlike many firms, John Lewis specifically cited one-off events such as the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics as a factor in its good sales.

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Chairman Charlie Mayfield also stated that these figures were, “underpinned by strong growth from Electricals and Home Technology and multi- channel sales”. Sales in EHT were up by a significant 31.8 per cent.

Mayfield commented: “The strong growth in EHT was supported by customer confidence in our price matching position, particularly during the digital switchover in London.

“Product innovation, brand partnerships with suppliers such as Apple, and our commitment to being Never Knowingly Undersold contributed to our market share gains.

“Our multi-channel operation continues to go from strength-to- strength, with customers appreciating the ease of shopping across a variety of channels from smartphones to in-store internet kiosks.”

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Specialist electrical retailer Dixons Retail, the company behind PC World, Currys and Dixons, saw a seven per cent rise in sales in the UK and Ireland in its Q1, in the 12 weeks ending July 21st.

Overall like-for-like sales, which excludes new stores, rose five per cent and total sales rose two per cent. Multi-channel sales were up 48 per cent in UK & Ireland.

“While it is still early in our financial year, I am encouraged by the start we have made across the group,” said chief executive of Dixons Sebastian James. “August has proven to be quieter across the retail sector in some of our markets and we continue to be cautious about the outlook. However, we are well placed for the back to school period and look forward to the launch of Windows 8 and the exciting new products that we will have available for the Christmas period.”

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