Currys’ sales slump as shoppers shun High Street amid Omicron fears

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Currys warns of nightmare before Xmas: Electronics retailer sees sales slump as shoppers shun the High Street amid fresh Omicron fears


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Electronics retailer Currys has stunned investors by warning that sales were slowing in the run-up to Christmas.

London-listed retailers usually wait until after the festive period to update the City but chief executive Alex Baldock was keen to reveal what they face.

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He blamed the slowdown on further Covid restrictions, adding that some customers are too nervous to shop. 

Curry's chief exec Alex Baldock (pictured) blamed the slowdown on the introduction of further Covid restrictions

Curry’s chief exec Alex Baldock (pictured) blamed the slowdown on the introduction of further Covid restrictions

He said: ‘Customers are understandably listening to the mood music around Omicron and Government restrictions, which isn’t exactly positive.

‘Some might be more reluctant to go into high streets and shopping centres. We are looking at a certain nervousness which is understandable. How that pans out we’ll see.’

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He called on the Government not to impose further restrictions on retailers, saying there was ‘zero evidence of public health risk’ in stores and the Government would need an ‘unanswerable public health case’ to close them, given the implications for jobs and the economy.

He said: ‘I would counsel those in decision-making circles to think very carefully before you start taking chances with what could be such a powerful engine of recovery.

‘We are in a good position to power the recovery and are not asking for handouts. We just want to trade.’

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There were fears in the City Currys might have to slash its full-year profit guidance of £160million if the conditions continue. 

Russ Mould, director at AJ Bell, said: ‘While Currys is sticking with its full-year guidance for now, there is an obvious risk the second half is sufficiently bad to require that guidance to be trimmed or, in the worst case scenario, slashed.’

Baldock’s comments came as the retailer revealed a 3 per cent slide in sales at its UK and Irish business in the six months to October 30. Sales were hit by supply chain issues.

Baldock said: ‘In large-screen TVs, our customers might have to do with a choice of 100 models, rather than the 120 that we would prefer to put in front of them.’

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The stock fell 9.3 per cent, or 11.5p, to 112.5p and the sector appears to have been hit by a winter chill.

Shares in the UK’s biggest fashion retailer Next dropped 4 per cent, or 318p, yesterday to 7736p. 

Trainer King JD Sports also took a 3.3 per cent hit, falling 7p, to 204p. And Primark owner Associated British Foods fell 3.1 per cent, or 60p, to 1891p.

Richard Hyman, retail analyst at consultancy TPC, said: ‘This is a hammer blow to an industry that was starting to feel a few weeks ago that things were heading toward some semblance of what might be called normality. 

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‘This is obviously very serious and people are changing their behaviour, being more careful, working from home more.

‘But we are taking a very big step backwards and that is bad news for the retail economy. The emergence of Omicron is a massive issue and one that will change consumer behaviour and spending.’

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