There were indications of improved prospects among hard-pressed big-ticket retailers as Home Retail Group and Kesa issued updates and Carpetright held its AGM.

Home Retail reported that growth at Homebase during the second quarter “was led by big-ticket categories, particularly kitchens”. Homebase’s like-for-likes rose 1.6% in the period. However, at stablemate Argos, which posted a 1.4% like-for-like decline, furniture “remained challenging”.

Comet, the UK electricals chain owned by Anglo-French retailer Kesa, notched up like-for-like growth of 0.3% in the three months to July 31. Kesa said Comet’s rate of gross margin decline “continued to ease, aided by an improvement in the level of white goods in the sales mix”.

Carpetright chairman and chief executive Lord Harris said that the administration of competitor Allied, a growing insurance business, efficiencies as a result of its central warehouse and better mortgage approval figures were grounds for optimism.

He said: “All these factors make me cautiously optimistic ahead of our important autumn trading period.”