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Home Retail ups forecast

HOME retail Group – which owns Argos and Homebase – has tipped its pre-tax profit for the year to come in at £290m.

The figure is slightly ahead of its earlier forecast of £285m for the year to 27 February.

Argos sales fell 9.4 per cent while sales at its home improvement operation Homebase declined 0.6 per cent in the eight weeks to the end of the financial year as the cold snap took its toll on shopper numbers.

Chief executive Terry Duddy said that he was hoping the World Cup would help to further boost figures.

He said: “The last World Cup was terrific for us. It was the perfect circumstances with people buying both barbecues and large-screen televisions.”

He said that three per cent of the Argos decline could be attributed to the fact that the spring/summer catalogue was released on 23 January this year, almost a week later than in 2009. He added: “Every five or six years we have to shift the catalogue forward a week to preserve the gap between Christmas and its launch.

“A catalogue launch is a major event, driving much heavier footfall into the stores.”

Duddy said the weather had also affected Homebase sales, while the weakness of sterling weighed on both chains.

“This short trading period reported today saw volatile trading patterns, making it difficult to assess any changes in underlying consumer demand. For the new financial year, we continue to plan cautiously given the uncertain economic outlook, but do so from our position of operational and financial strength,” he added.