THE owner of electrical goods retailer Comet revealed a 22% plunge in sales as consumer confidence fell to a “low ebb” across the UK.
While Kesa Electricals reported the drop in same-store sales between May and July 31, the group shed no light on the progress of a sale of the struggling retailer, which has 248 stores across the UK.
Chief executive Thierry Falque-Pierrotin said the group continued to examine strategic alternatives, but would not comment on speculation about a potential sale – though he hopes any process will be completed before Christmas.
Mr Falque-Pierrotin said laptops, televisions and big-ticket items such as large domestic appliances were not selling, while iPads and tablet computers, headphones and large TVs with 43-inch plus screens were performing well.
Kesa, which also owns Darty France and Dutch retailers Vanden Borre and BCC, posted a 9.9% decline in overall group sales, which was supported by a stronger performance in France and the Netherlands.
Recent reports suggested talks between Kesa and the last two interested buyers – corporate restructuring specialist Hilco and private equity group OpCapita – have come to a halt.
Mr Falque-Pierrotin said Comet, which has about 10,000 employees, was focusing on its turnaround plan, which includes improving margins and a store refit programme.
The sales performance was also hit by comparisons to a strong selling period last year due to the World Cup, when television sales surged.
The Comet.co.uk website saw an increasingly improved trend throughout the period, but overall internet growth was hit by the decision to align store and web prices. The move led to a fall in “click and collect” sales.
Kesa closed one store in the period and plans to refit 60 before the peak trading season.
Looking ahead, the company said “market conditions are likely to remain challenging for some time”.
Shares in Kesa fell in early trading, but recovered to close 5% or 4.5p higher at 91.6p per share.