Floor coverings group Carpetright has reported a steep fall in sales - but said it was coping with tough trading conditions better than its rivals.
Carpetright, which has 14 stores in the West Midlands, revealed like-for-like sales for the 15 weeks since the end of April were down 7.5 per cent on a year earlier, as the group faced strong comparatives at a time when consumers were unwilling to splash out on home improvements.
Total sales were little better - down 7.3 per cent during the period as the company saw the benefits of new space offset by the closure of concessions in the Allders chain of department stores, which collapsed earlier this year.
The retailer said yesterday: "Trading in our UK and Republic of Ireland business has remained difficult due to a weak consumer environment combined with strong comparatives from last year."
But it added: "Carpetright has continued to take market share in all the countries in which it trades."
Carpetright has more than 375 branches in the UK and Ireland. It told investors at the end of June that it had no plans to slow down its store expansion programme because of the high street spending malaise.
It is targeting the addition of 75 stores to its UK and Ireland portfolio within three years and Lord Harris, Carpetright's founder, chairman and chief executive, whose family hold 28 per cent of the retailer's equity, believes there is the potential for at least 100 concessions in department stores in the medium term.
In addition to its standalone outlets, Carpetright opened its first concessions in Debenhams in November and is continuing to trade from eight former Allders stores sold to BHS in March.
The group's business in Belgium and the Netherlands continued to make progress with total product sales in local currency increasing by 6.3 per cent and gross margin showing "further improvement" on last year.
The company's comments on market share helped the group shrug off a downgrade in stance by Insinger de Beaufort to "trading sell" from "hold" on valuation following a recent rally in the shares.
But the broker retained its 850 pence target price and said comparatives should soften going forwards and a valuation premium is clearly deserved.
Seymour Pierce said the sales drop was lower than the five per cent it had been looking for in the first half but added Carpetright was up against fairly strong comparatives.
It argued operations in Belgium and the Netherlands made good progress.
Despite the tough trading conditions Carpetright has continued to take share in all markets, the broker noted, as it reiterated its 'hold' advice.
Panmure Gordon also highlighted that European trading is still positive, but said a lack of comment on UK gross margin was a concern.
It downgraded forecasts by around ten per cent.
Numis reiterated its ' reduce' rating and said it was not cutting its 795p target price at this stage because the stock receives some support from the dividend yield.
But it continues to prefer Topps Tiles, where like-forlike sales are flat to slightly positive and the dividend yield is just as strong as Carpetright's.