Carpetright says UK consumer confidence fragile, lowers forecasts

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's largest floor coverings retailer Carpetright forecast full-year 2017-18 profit towards the bottom end of market expectations, saying consumer confidence remains fragile and competition intense.

The firm, whose fortunes are closely tied to the strength of the housing market, said it made a pretax profit of 2.1 million pounds in the 26 weeks to Oct. 28, down from 5.1 million pounds in the same period last year, despite revenue rising 2.6 percent to 228.1 million pounds.

Carpetright had said in October that first-half profit would fall short of the same period last year, though it forecast a better second half.

UK like-for-like sales increased 0.7 percent in the first half and rose 1.4 percent in the six weeks to Dec. 9. In the Rest of Europe division - made up of the Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland - first half like-for-like sales increased 6.5 percent and were up 9.2 percent in the first six weeks of the second half.

British consumers' discretionary spending is under pressure from rising inflation, subdued wage growth and ongoing uncertainty in the UK economy.

Squeezed British consumers reined in Christmas travel plans and bought fewer new cars last month, setting the stage for the first fall in festive spending in five years, credit card company Visa said on Monday.

"While trading over the first six weeks of the new period has been light of the consumer outlook we are taking a more cautious view of the second half and now expect underlying profit before tax for the full year will be towards the bottom end of the current range of market expectations," said Chief Executive Wilf Walsh.

Prior to Tuesday's update analysts were forecasting 13.8-16.5 million pounds versus 14.4 million pounds in 2016-17.

Shares in Carpetright, up 23 percent so far this year, closed Monday at 185 pence.

(Reporting by James Davey; editing by Kate Holton)

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