LONDON, April 10 (Reuters) - British homewares retailer Dunelm Group reported a strong rise in underlying quarterly revenue, but cautioned that sales growth would be harder to achieve in the rest of its financial year.
Dunelm on Wednesday said like-for-like sales, which remove the impact of new stores, grew by 5.2 percent in the 13 weeks to March 30, helped in part by a longer winter sale and an earlier Easter than in 2012.
"We now annualise our exceptionally strong comparative performance in the final quarter of last financial year. Accordingly, we anticipate that sales growth in like-for-like stores will become much harder to achieve in the remainder of the current financial year," said Chief Executive Nick Wharton.
The company, which sells items such as bedding, curtains, kitchenware and lighting at mostly out-of-town locations, has been a rare bright spot in what has been a difficult time for UK retailers.
Gross margin for the quarter is estimated to have continued its positive trend with an improvement of around 20 basis points compared to 2012, the company said.
Total revenue for the third quarter grew by 15.4 percent, benefiting from three store openings in the period with two more in the pipeline, while the gross margin improved by around 20 basis points, the company said.
This will take the number of store openings for the full financial year to 143, including 126 superstores, compared with the company's target of "full national coverage" estimated at 200 superstores.
The family-run business said it was on track to create a significantly larger distribution centre for online sales in the summer of 2013.
Dunelm's shares closed at 839.5 pence on the London Stock Exchange on Tuesday. They have risen about 74 percent over the past year.