Like-for-likes at catalogue retailer Argos rose 1.4% in the 13 weeks to September 1 and parent Home Retail expects group full-year profits to be in line with expectations.
Despite the closure of seven stores, bringing the total estate to 739, total sales were up 1% to £867m at Argos.
Consumer electronics “continued to deliver an improved sales performance”, as tablets and e-readers sold well, helping to offset the “market driven” sales declines in the video gaming and audio categories, as well as weaker trading in seasonal products.
However, margins declined by about 75 basis points, driven by an “adverse sales mix and price investment”. This was partially offset by a reduced level of stock clearance activity and the “anticipated net benefit of favourable currency and reduced shipping costs”.
Terry Duddy, chief executive of Home Retail Group, said: “At this stage, we expect to deliver full-year group benchmark profit in line with current market expectations but, as always, the outcome will depend upon trading at Argos in its peak Christmas period.”
Sales via the online Check & Reserve channel grew 24% and now represent 30% of total Argos sales.
Total internet sales grew 16%, making up 42% of total Argos sales.
Total multichannel sales represented 52% of total Argos sales, up from 47% a year earlier.
At sister chain Homebase like-for-likes fell 3.7% as big-ticket items struggled in a weak market and sales of seasonal products were hit in the poor weather.
Sales for the remaining categories were “broadly flat”.
Total sales dropped 3.9% to £366m. One store closed in the quarter, reducing the store portfolio to 340.
Gross margins improved by about 75 basis points, “driven by the anticipated net benefit of favourable currency and reduced shipping costs together with a beneficial sales mix”.
However, this was “offset in part” by an increased level of seasonal stock clearance activity.
Duddy added: “Argos has had a solid first half of the year supported by its multichannel performance, while at Homebase seasonal product sales continued to be adversely impacted by the poor weather conditions.
“While we continue to plan cautiously we approach our peak trading period in good operational shape.”