Retailers’ message: keep taking tablets

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The flurry of Christmas trading updates shows no sign of abating this week, with festive figures from Currys and PC World parent Dixons
Retail and Argos owner Home Retail Group.

The collapse of electronics chain Comet is expected to have provided a boost to Dixons over Christmas, while the group is also set to have reaped the rewards of soaring demand for tablet computers.

City experts predict the group’s update on Thursday will reveal like-for-like sales in the UK and Ireland up by between 4 per cent and 6 per cent in the 12 weeks to 5 January. It has been hailed the Christmas of the tablet computer by other retailers as traditional toys were shunned in favour of the hi-tech devices, with the British Retail Consortium’s December figures confirming the tablet was a winning product.

Dixons’ rival Argos is set to reveal a more “subdued” performance. Analysts predict the business saw like-for-like sales growth ease back to 0.2 per cent in the third quarter as the benefit of the early launch of the group’s autumn/winter catalogue is reversed.

Third quarter like-for-like sales at stablemate Homebase are forecast to drop 2.1 per cent, with a subdued DIY market over Christmas and trade also hit by the severe wet weather.

Primark owner Associated British Foods should see a rise in sales despite tough comparisons after a buoyant Christmas in 2011.

Primark’s performance will be watched closely after a season of mixed fortunes for the major retailers.

Aberdeen Asset Management is expected to report a strong start to its financial year amid a flow of investment away from low-yielding bonds and back into shares.

Aberdeen, known as the ­“go-to” manager for emerging market equities, will deliver a trading update on Thursday at its annual meeting, and analysts anticipate that an inflow of funds that was the hallmark of the year to 30 September will have continued in the last quarter.

Graham Spooner, of the Share Centre, said Aberdeen appeared well placed to take advantage of current trends.

“Investment managers tend to fall in and out of fashion, and Aberdeen is definitely in fashion right now,” said Spooner, who carries a “hold” recommendation on the stock.