Currys boss urges government not to impose further Covid restrictions

UK’s biggest electrical goods firm hit by sales slowdown amid concerns over Omicron variant

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Last modified on Wed 15 Dec 2021 10.56 EST

The boss of Currys has urged the government not to impose further restrictions on high street retailers as he revealed a slowdown in sales amid increasing fears over the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant and product shortages.

Alex Baldock, the chief executive of the UK’s biggest electrical goods retailer, which formerly traded as PC World, Carphone Warehouse and Dixons, said there was “zero evidence of public health risk” in stores and the government would need an “unanswerable public health case” to close them in another lockdown, given the implications for jobs and the wider economy.

“We are in a good position to power the recovery and are not asking for handouts. We just want to trade,” Baldock said.

The retail boss made the comments as he revealed a 3% slide in sales at Currys UK and Irish business, excluding new store openings and permanent closures, in the six months to 30 October.

Overall sales for the group, which also operates in the Nordic region and Greece, were flat at £4.8bn for the half-year, excluding the effect of currency exchange rate changes. Pre-tax profits ticked up almost 7% to £48m.

The company said sales had been affected by supply chain problems and concerns about the virus, which had affected consumer confidence, as well as the fact they were being compared with very strong trading last year as families bought technology for home offices and entertaining children during the pandemic.

Baldock said Currys had 15% more stock in the business than a year ago but there were “patches of restricted availability”, with it offering 100 models of large-screen television rather than the 120 it usually stocked, for example.

Shortages of components for some sought-after items and shipping hold-ups affected supplies across the industry but Baldock said Currys had been able to use its scale to secure better supplies than many rivals.

Baldock said Currys was still on track to meet its profits targets for the year as the technology market was 20% bigger than before the pandemic, given the surge in home working and rise of gaming as families spent more time in the business. “Most of that will stick,” he said.

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