Electricals retailer Dixons reported strong Christmas trading as UK like-for-likes rose 8%, driven by “phenomenal” sales of tablets and the collapse of rival Comet. 

Total sales rose 7% at the core UK business, mainly Currys and PC World, in the 12 weeks to January 5, and the retailer said it gained market share. Chief executive Seb James had already forecast a “tablet-tastic” Christmas in December as the devices became the number one Christmas gift.

James said: “Our key multichannel businesses delivered an encouragingly strong result during the Christmas period, particularly in the UK and Ireland and in northern Europe.

“Tablet sales were phenomenal across our markets, which was good to see but which impacted overall headline margins somewhat.”

James said that its Currys and PC World businesses had enjoyed an uplift in market share as a result of Comet’s collapse in November. “White goods sales have been strong in Comet’s absence. The first eight weeks of the period we were effected by Comet’s Clearance Sale and then we had a clear run in the final four weeks.

“Once the Comet stores closed we had customers coming across ths street to us which was encouraging.”

James said he hoped to get “one or two per cent” more market share this year, Dixons currently holds 19% of the electricals market. Dixons took on 1,000 Comet staff over Christmas and kept on 500 on permanent contracts.

Group like-for-likes rose 3% and total sales 2%, held back by a “disappointing” performance from its Pixmania e-commerce business. Pixmania was affected by ongoing restructuring, compounded by difficulties in its main markets. Like-for-likes fell 25% and total sales 28%.  James said “good progress” is being made in restructuring Pixmania.

Like-for-likes in northern and central Europe rose 11%, and total sales 7%. However, like-for-likes at Dixons’ southern European business in Italy, Turkey and Greece fell 8% and total sales were down 6% as economies in the region remained weak.

James said: “In Italy and Greece I was pleased to see our businesses trading ahead of weak local markets and continuing to manage profitability robustly.” 

Dixons expects group full-year pre-tax profit to be in  line with market expectations of £75m to £85m.

James added: “In the year ahead, while we will manage our cost base cautiously, we see many opportunities to improve the overall performance of our group through further developments in our service offer for customers, sharing best practice, controlling costs and focusing on multichannel growth.”

James said he was “heartbroken” that HMV had fallen into administration. He said: “I’m heartbroken about HMV. I bought my first record [Bob Marley’s Exodus] from there but I suppose the problem is I bougth my last one from iTunes. It’s a market that’s evaporated into the ether.”