STRONGER-than-expected trading at Argos and Homebase today lifted half-year profits at parent firm Home Retail Group, despite "challenging" conditions.
Underlying pre-tax profits in the six months to August 29 rose 1% to £123 million as total sales climbed 3% to £2.8 billion.
Like-for-like sales at Argos fell 2% while Homebase same-store sales climbed 3% as the DIY chain was boosted by demand for kitchens.
Chief executive Terry Duddy said the company remained cautious about consumer demand over the rest of the financial year, while it also expects a more significant impact from adverse currency movements.
However, he added: "The group’s operational and financial strength will continue to sustain our competitive advantage in the market place."
Home Retail added a net nine new Argos stores in the period, taking its portfolio to 739, and said there was potential to open another 20 a year.
It said new stores were predominately in out-of-town retail parks, although there will also be some new locations in smaller towns as well as further sites sought for its smaller store format within larger cities.
It has also expanded its winter catalogue by 400 lines to 19,200 products, while the company is in the process of refreshing the Argos brand.
Argos profits for the half year were down £6 million at £79.7 million, with challenging market conditions in home-related areas such as furniture offset by growth in consumer electronics, televisions and personal computers.