Home Retail hit by Argos sales decline

HOME Retail Group chief executive Terry Duddy yesterday called for the chancellor to do more to help cash-strapped families as falling sales at the company’s Argos chain took their toll on the share price.

Denying the company’s business model was “broken”, Duddy fired a broadside at George Osborne, challenging him to increase tax relief for those on a low income.

Argos was hit by a nine per cent drop in like-for-like sales in the first half. That performance triggered a 70 per cent plunge in pre-tax profits to £28m across the group.

The company’s share price was dented by the bleak figures.

Duddy said that climbing inflation was among the factors contributing to the woes at Argos.

“The government should help those lower income groups. They should get more relief, including a change in the tax threshold,” he said.

The company also announced a joint venture in China that will see Argos goods sold online in the country, with one shop also to open.

The deal with Haier will see an initial £22m investment from Home Retail. Meanwhile Duddy said he was optimistic over UK Christmas sales which he expected to be boosted by the popularity of iPods and the iPad 2.

He said: “The business model is not broken. We are investing in things like the Chinese joint venture and the purchase of Habitat to come out of the downturn strongly.”