Argos owner Home Retail’s shares fell after a second-quarter update showing a continued like-for-like sales fall at the flagship chain and deterioration in trading at stablemate Homebase.

Argos’s sales declined 8.6% like-for-like – an improvement on the 9.6% slide the previous quarter. Homebase’s like-for-likes fell 3.1%, after a 1.6% rise in the first quarter.

Home Retail chief executive Terry Duddy reassured that the business was “in good operational shape” ahead of Christmas.

Seymour Pierce moved from sell to hold because of Home Retail’s 15% share price fall since mid-August but said: “We have significant reservations on the long-term outlook for Argos and Homebase.”

Investec retained its hold advice but admitted: “We fear that the weakening trading performance at Argos may reflect more structural rather than cyclical pressures due to a ‘scattering’ of market share loss.”

Singer, a seller, said: “We remain cautious given the group’s overexposure to the UK mass-market customer through Argos, the UK housing market through Homebase and the likely squeeze on consumer spending in the months ahead.”