The stores sector was flat as a Shrove Tuesday pancake - perhaps a better performance than might have been expected as the latest BRC sales data showed the worst growth in almost two years.
Broker Investec does not anticipate much relief for general merchandise groups. The broker said: “Non-food sector comps remain tough until mid-year, so we expect sector sales growth to remain sluggish with big-ticket - against a World Cup-boosted comp for TVs in particular - to be particularly vulnerable.”
There was plenty of action among the sports specialists. Troubled JJB was the week’s biggest loser as it detailed its CVA proposal. The retailer also set in motion a move from the main market to AIM with the appointment of Numis as its nominated adviser.
Developments at JJB’s bitter rival Sports Direct were more encouraging. It has refinanced, putting in place a £220m facility, and said that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is no longer investigating any individuals connected to the retailer. Broker Singer said: “These are both good news items and lead us to change our target price to 190p from 173p to reflect a higher target multiple.”
Singer was especially pleased by the all-clear from the SFO and said: “This removes a potentially significant obstacle as far as the group’s valuation is concerned and investors can now look ahead to the next two years of trading and growth initiatives with optimism.”
Superdry owner SuperGroup, whose shares have rocketed since last year’s IPO, fell over the week and were down over three months too. Broker Arden was relaxed and said: “We assume it’s simply profit taking in a weak sector.”
Seymour Pierce retained its sell stance on home shopping group Findel, despite being pleased by a fundraising. The broker said: “Management now has a two- to three-year window to come up with a credible strategy. We are, however, keeping our sell recommendation until we have more visibility on future strategy and on the earnings outlook beyond 2011/12, which will, we believe, be a year of consolidation.”
As well as sales figures, the BRC also issued its latest Shop Price Index. Broker Shore observed: “Electricals and clothing and footwear continue to be the sole categories in deflationary mode, which, combined with [BRC] commentary on retail sales suggesting that these two categories also were the weakest, paints a clear picture.
“Clearly consumers are diverting expenditure away from these categories, despite the continued pricing incentives being put forward. We have already downgraded forecasts for Kesa and Dixons to reflect these concerns.”