Dixons Carphone's drive to close its weakest stores helped its comparable-stores sales growth in the April quarter, but there is much more to its success, writes the Financial Times' Lex column.
The mobiles, appliances and computers purveyor posted April-quarter comparable-store sales growth of 6%, as most retail chains in the UK continued to flail.
Between October 2015 and April 2014 it shut a net 105 shops in UK and Ireland, or about 8% of its total estate.
Dixons Carphone further planned to cut its roughly 400 big out-of-town stores to 323 by the end of its current financial year.
For this, said Lex, Dixons Carphone deserved credit for its courage.
By contrast, rival multi-line retailer Argos was adding stores at a fair old clip, but its sales were flat, while Marks and Spencer's flaccid clothing and home division did not shed even a square foot of selling space last year.
"There is more to Dixons' success than shutting shops," observed Lex, adding the chain had become price competitive with online rivals, cut costs and invested in its remaining shops.
It had also taken some market share from rivals, Lex said.
"By next year, the closure process will be complete, Argos will be under new ownership, merger savings will be mostly captured and Dixons will no longer be flattered by comparisons with its old, weak self," said Lex.
"Even so, other retailers have much to learn from Dixons' hardheadedness."
Meantime, The Times' Tempus column has suggested avoiding Serco on the basis that all that glitters is not gold.
It noted the rise in the company's share price, but cautioned that there were several one-off factors in the first half that would take revenues up by about £100m to £2.9bn.
Trading profits would come in it about £65m, against the £50m originally conceived.
Tempus further noted Serco had enjoyed several contracts in America that had continued for longer than expected because of delays in getting successors in place.
Other contracts, the column said, had come out on better terms than expected, while some spending booked for the first half had been deferred.
"None of this will recur and there is nothing to affect the outcome for next year," wrote Tempus, having pored over the fine detail of the outfit's latest trading update.
"Serco is still on a long journey to reshape the business by 2020, exiting unprofitable work, and margins across the group remain at about 2%.
"As the company admits, the smallest movement in the numbers will have a disproportionate effect on profits."
So it was that Tempus cautioned further bad news could not be ruled out.
still sell on a meaninglessly high multiple for this year and next."
The column argued that Serco was only at the beginning of its rehabilitation process, and suggested its shares be avoided.