Argos, acquired last year in a £1.9bn hostile takeover, slipped 3% in like-for-like sales although GUS chairman Lord Wolfson claimed that October and November sales had improved. The group’s saving grace was Experian [the information services operation acquired for £1bn in 1996] which recorded an 18% rise in profits to £95.4m.
Mr Peace introduced a note of desperation into the proceedings by revealing that GUS is to discount its catalogue prices by 10%, a move likened by one anonymous analyst to ‘Custer’s last stand’. The EC2 bookies accordingly downgraded their full year profits forecast to £430m, and to £410m for 2001. Lord Wolfson, who has presided over the fallen giant’s misfortunes [after inheriting the GUS chair from his late father], moved into a non-executive role this month and is to retire later in the year.