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Strong Xmas Sales At Dixons, Argos And Primark

(c) Sky News 2013

Dixons reports strong sales across the UK and Ireland (OTC BB: IRLD - news) over the Christmas period, as "phenomenal" sales of tablets help boost its results.

The owner of Currys and PC World said like-for-like sales were up 8% over the 12 weeks to January 5, and were 11% higher in northern Europe.

The company's chief executive Sebastian James said customers had responded well to its range of products, offers and service.

"Our key multi-channel businesses delivered an encouragingly strong result during the Christmas period, particularly in the UK & Ireland and in Northern Europe," he said.

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

"White goods were also strong, particularly in the UK."

Sales fell 8% in central and southern Europe, which is facing tough austerity measures and high unemployment, although the company said it was trading "ahead of weak local markets" in Italy and Greece.

Joseph Robinson from retail analysts Conlumino said Dixons is sure to have benefited from the collapse of its rival Comet in November (Xetra: A0Z24E - news) , which kicked off a string of high street casualties over the festive season.

Since the New Year, camera retailer Jessops and entertainment chain HMV have both called in administrators .

Blockbuster, the DVD rental chain, collapsed on Thursday in the face of increasing competition from its online rivals.

"The recent exit from the UK electricals market of both Comet and Jessops has served to highlight the immense competitive pressures that physical operators are facing," Mr Robinson said.

"Against this backdrop, the recent performance of Dixons is impressive, with the retailer benefiting from a proactive and clear strategy to maintain its relevance in this fast evolving competitive landscape.

He added: "Dixons will have inevitably been boosted by the demise of Comet."

Meanwhile, Argos said that 42% of its sales over the Christmas period were online, as it reported a 2.7% hike in like-for-like sales in the 18 weeks to January 5.

The store's owner, Home Retail Group, said it is working to "reinvent" the chain as a "digital retail leader", noting that sales on mobile phones were up by 125%.

Sales of electronics - led by tablets - white goods and toys were all strong, it said.

But Homebase, also owned by Home Retail Group, reported a fall in like-for-like sales of almost 4% over the period as weak consumer confidence hit sales of big ticket items.

Struggling baby and maternity retailer Mothercare (LSE: MTC.L - news) reported an even larger fall in sales as it closed 11 more stores.

Over the 13 weeks to January 12, like-for-like sales in the UK fell 5.9% at the business, which also owns ELC (Early Learning Centre).

But its chief executive Simon Calver insisted the retailer had made "solid progress".

"Our three-year Transformation and Growth plan remains on track," he said.

"We are working towards transforming the UK while growing international products."

In clothing, both budget retailer Primark and online store ASOS (Other OTC: ASOMY - news) performed well over Christmas.

At ASOS, which is targeted at web-savvy consumers in their 20s, total sales in the UK were up 34% in the 16 weeks to January 5.

The website's expansion overseas was also successful, with a 47% hike in international sales - which now make up over half of its total transactions.

Total (NYSE: TOT - news) sales at Primark were up 25% in the 16 weeks to January 5, driven by strong like-for-like sales, its owner Associated British Foods (LSE: ABF.L - news) said.

The opening of 14 new stores over the period also helped boost its performance. 

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