Argos owner warns of Black Friday blues

Kasmira Jefford
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Argos has replaced catalogues with tablets
THE CHIEF executive of Home Retail Group warned yesterday against the risk of chasing sales over Black Friday week at the expense of profit after the Argos owner reported weaker-than-expected results for the festive period.

John Walden said it had decided to take a much more cautious approach to discounting in the run-up to Christmas to protect its margins, which grew by 25 basis points.

“It would [have been] easy to get into a position where everything is on sale and everything gets cherry picked and you end up with a real profit problem and that was the challenge we tried to avoid,” he said.

As a result, sales at stores open more than a year rose just 0.1 per cent in the 18 weeks to 3 January, missing forecasts for a two per cent increase and dragging shares down six per cent yesterday.

Argos saw sales jump 45 per cent on Black Friday, when 13.5m people visited its digital channels and flocked to its stores to snap up discounted electrical goods and products.

Walden said that while he expected the US-style shopping to remain big next year, he expects many retailers plan their sales differently.

“I have seen a lot of retailers make mistakes on Black Friday where they chose the wrong products and put too many things on sale. It has a very potentially negative impact on profit – that was something we were really concerned about,” he said.

Homebase’s like-for-like sales rose 0.6 per cent in the period. The company still expects to meet its full-year profit before tax expectations of £127m.

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