Flooring specialist hit by tough trading
Topps Tiles has shown it is not immune from the consumer slowdown, revealing like-for-like sales down in recent weeks. However, the retailer believes it is in good shape for growth.

The flooring specialist admitted that like-for-like sales for the first seven weeks of the new financial year fell 4.7 per cent, while total sales increased by 1.2 per cent.

However, group sales for the year to October 1 increased by 10 per cent to£173.3 million, and like-for-like sales climbed by 3.4 per cent. Pre-tax profit rose 16.1 per cent to£39.2 million, while gross margin improved to 61.3 per cent from 60.5 per cent last year.

Chief executive Nick Ounstead said: 'There is no doubt that we, along with the rest of the UK retail sector, are experiencing a very tough trading environment. However, given the strength of these results, we believe we have the right business model and the best people to continue to gain market share. We are well placed to maintain our goal of providing sustainable returns for shareholders.'

Topps, which trades from 207 eponymous stores and 37 Tile Clearing House outlets, plans to have a minimum of 350 shops in the UK. Chairman Barry Bester added that the new distribution centre has been integrated with the entire chain, providing a platform for growth.

Numis retail analyst Steve Davies noted that even with falling like-for-like sales, Topps' performance was encouraging in the present climate. 'That [4.7 per cent like-for-like sales fall] is significantly better than most household goods retailers are managing right now. It is also worth remembering this is against comparatives of +16 per cent from last year - these get significantly easier as we get into 2006.'