LONDON, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Home Retail Group, Britain's biggest household goods retailer, said on Thursday the head of its Argos business John Walden would replace outgoing chief executive Terry Duddy.
The news came as the Argos and Homebase owner said a strong performance in its Christmas quarter meant it expected full-year group benchmark profit to be towards the top end of a range of market expectations of 90 million pounds ($147.16 million) to 109 million pounds.
Home Retail said on Thursday sales at Argos stores open over a year for the 18 weeks to Jan. 4 had risen 3.8 percent, and were up 4.7 percent at its Homebase DIY chain, both ahead of analyst forecasts for a 2.5 percent rise at both divisions.
Argos makes around 70 percent of group revenue.
Duddy, one of the longest serving leaders in the stores sector, announced in September that he would quit the firm by July. Argos Managing Director Walden, who has been with the group since Feb. 2012, had been viewed by analysts as a clear favourite for the top job and will start as CEO on March 14.
"The retail landscape is changing quickly, and I am optimistic that with solid plans and 50,000 talented colleagues, Home Retail Group is well positioned for a successful future," Walden said.
After five years of profit decline, Home Retail is implementing a turnaround plan, revamping its Homebase stores and reinventing household goods retailer Argos from a catalogue firm to a digital business, targeting a 15 percent rise in sales to 4.5 billion pounds by 2018.
The third-quarter sales growth follows a 2.7 percent rise at Argos in its second quarter and an 11 percent jump at Homebase in the same period, thanks to strong demand for garden furniture and barbecue sales during a warm British summer.
Argos said it had also seen strong demand for video gaming, tablets and TVs over the key Christmas trading period, with internet sales growing to 46 percent of total sales, up from 42 percent a year ago, helped by rising mobile commerce sales.
However, the group said margins had fallen at both Argos and Homebase in the quarter, down 50 and 75 basis points respectively, due to higher sales of electrical products at Argos and an increasing number of big ticket items sold at Homebase.