Home Retail Group has revealed a 7.5 per cent like-for-like sales decline at Argos in the 18 weeks to January 3, while its sister DIY chain Homebase suffered a 10.2 per cent fall.

Total sales fell 3.6 per cent at Argos, with furniture and homewares particularly weak but electronics strong. Nearly a third of sales were over the internet. Gross margin fell 125 basis points reflecting more products being discounted and changes in the product mix.

Homebase total sales fell 3.8 per cent over the period and here the gross margin was down 50 basis points. Kitchens fared well but otherwise big ticket sales proved tough.

Group chief executive Terry Duddy said he expected profits would still come in at around consensus expectations of£320m, but admitted: "Our markets continue to be significantly impacted by the sharp reduction in consumer spending."