Homewares specialist Dunelm has shown itself to be a dab hand at convincing consumers to spruce up their houses, despite tough times, by unveiling a first-half profit growth.

Homewares specialist Dunelm has shown itself to be a dab hand at convincing consumers to spruce up their houses, despite tough times, by unveiling a first-half profit growth.

That’s partly because of its ability to create assortments that hold their own price-wise against the grocers and discounters and appeal at the opposite end of the scale to customers who might otherwise opt for upmarket department stores - evidenced by Dunelm knocking John Lewis off the number one homewares slot last autumn.

On Tuesday Dunelm unveiled first-half profit growth of almost 15%, rising total sales and improved like-for-likes.

Dunelm’s strategy looks likely to continue to generate growth. The retailer has combined a tight attitude to costs with an eye for product that reflects its market stall origins, but is moving with the times too.

While stores continue to be the motor of the business, in the first half Dunelm generated 4% of revenues through multichannel. Most orders were delivered to customers’ homes rather than collected in-store, so a focus now is on improving delivery options and increasing fulfilment capacity. Dunelm may have started life as a trestle in Leicester, but it seems well positioned to make itself a home on the virtual high street after a slow start.

M&S needs to fix UK problems first

Marks & Spencer’s briefing to analysts about its overseas business last week seems to have gone down well.

There’s a great opportunity for M&S to extend its operations abroad. However, the international arm remains small compared with the domestic market - last year revenues were £1bn versus £8.86bn at home.

Not everything has gone to plan abroad. Markets such as Greece have been tough and, although M&S talked about opening Simply Food stores in new countries, it has yet to open any in the first market identified for the c-shops - France. Like Tesco, M&S must get its under-pressure UK general merchandise business into shape first.