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Argos boosted by Christmas sales
Argos revealed its best Christmas performance for more than 10 years after making further progress in its plan to become a digital-led retailer with nearly half of sales made online.
Another strong Christmas for tablet computers and the recent launch of Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4 games consoles helped like-for-like sales jump 3.8% in the 18 weeks to January 4.
It said 46% of all sales were made over the internet, boosted by its popular check and reserve service allowing shoppers to collect items in store as well as a surge in the use of smartphones and tablets - accounting for a fifth of all sales.
Argos owner Home Retail Group upped its full-year forecasts after the robust third quarter, with pre-tax profits now expected towards the top of City expectations for between £90 million and £109 million.
Bosses at the group are leading a makeover of the chain, scaling back its print version of the catalogue as it introduces more digital versions, while it is also closing or relocating at least 75 stores over the next five years.
Its parent firm Home Retail, which also owns Homebase, today revealed that Argos managing director John Walden will succeed Terry Duddy at the helm from March 14.
Mr Duddy announced his plans to step down after 15 years in the role last September.
Mr Duddy said the company had seen "terrific" online trade over the crucial trading period and hoped to achieve more than half of all sales via the internet in the next financial year.
Its overall goal is to drive this up to 75% over the next three to five years.
Argos said strong sales of consumer electronics, such as tablets, video games and consoles, televisions and white goods was partially offset by a drop in sales across audio, photographic, homewares and jewellery.
Toy sales remained "broadly flat" despite best-sellers such as children's tablets, Teksta robotic puppy and Furbies proving a hit.
Home Retail's DIY business Homebase also delivered a better-than-expected result over Christmas, with same store sales up 4.7% thanks to "big ticket" sales.
But profit margins suffered in both its chains, as consumer electrical and big ticket items are less profitable for the group.
Shares rose 4% on the profit cheer and as details of Mr Duddy's successor was received well in the market.
Analysts at N+1 Singer said it was a "good performance", but cautioned that "management's targets still feel a little too optimistic" as Home Retail ploughs ahead with store closures and revamps across both Argos and Homebase.