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Retail sector in the spotlight
Morrisons will deliver its full-year results on Thursday
Supermarket chain Morrisons will deliver its full-year results in a big week for the retail sector, with figures from French Connection and Argos owner Home Retail Group also in the spotlight.
Morrisons reports its annual results on Thursday after a difficult past few months for the supermarket sector, which has been embroiled in Europe's horse meat scandal.
While the Bradford-based chain's fresh meat sales have increased in the wake of the crisis, it has suffered on other fronts after losing market share to larger rivals.
It reported disappointing Christmas trading when like-for-like sales declined 2.5% in six weeks to December 30 and analysts at Investec are pencilling in underlying pre-tax earnings of £888 million, down from £939 million the previous year.
Investors will be hoping for signs that Geordie duo Ant and Dec have helped Morrisons reverse sales declines after the chain enlisted the help of the presenters for a television advertising campaign hailing its in-house butchers and bakers.
But the latest figures from market researcher Kantar Worldpanel suggest there has been little impact yet after Morrisons was the only retailer to post a sales decline, down 1.3% in the 12 weeks ending 17 February.
Meanwhile, catalogue chain Argos is set to deliver more sales cheer on Thursday as it continues to benefit from turnaround efforts and the demise of electrical chain Comet. The City expects parent Home Retail Group to say Argos sales rose 2.1% in the eight weeks to March 2, although this will come as a slight slowdown on the 2.7% jump seen in the 18 weeks to January 5.
Home Retail's DIY brand Homebase is expected to remain under pressure and is forecast to report ongoing declines in sales, with the City pencilling in a 2.8% drop at the end of the year.
Separately, fashion retailer French Connection will lay out further details of its turnaround plans on Wednesday as it reveals the scale of last year's losses. Analysts at Seymour Pierce are expecting the fashion chain to unveil a pre-tax loss of £7.8 million as UK sales continued to decline.
The group has already warned losses would rise to between £7.5 million and £8 million in the year to the end of January after it saw UK like-for-like sales fall 2.9% in the 24 weeks to January 12.
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