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Dignity and Carpetright crash in consumer crunch

Dignity and Carpetright crash in consumer crunch

Shares in funeral services provider Dignity and carpet retailer Carpetright have lost around half their value as both companies issued profit warnings, in another worrying sign for the health of the UK consumer.

Dignity (DTY) crashed 49% to 977.5p, tumbling to the bottom of the FTSE 250, as it warned 2018 would be substantially below market expectations after it was forced to cut the price of simple funerals by around a quarter.

Shares in the business are down 60% since early November, when boss Mike McCollum warned of increasing competition in the funeral space.

In this morning's statement, Dignity said that over the last 18 months it had 'consistently alerted the investment community as to the increasingly competitive environment in which it operates'.

'Customers are increasingly price-conscious and in an over-supplied industry, are shopping around more,' it said.

Peel Hunt analyst Charles Hall slashed his estimates for the company by 46% on the news, placing his target price under review but keeping his 'hold' rating.

'There is considerable uncertainty over the impact on volumes, mix and consumer reaction,' he said.

'As a result our 46% cut to forecasts is only a stab, not a clear view on the likely outcome.'

On the FTSE Small Cap index, shares in Carpetright (CPRC) were floored, down 42% at 95.4p as the carpet retailer warned on full-year profits, blaming faltering consumer confidence.

'Despite a positive start to our third quarter, we have seen a significant deterioration in UK trading during the important post-Christmas trading period,' said chief executive Wilf Walsh.

'While average transaction values were up year on year, the number of customer transactions since Christmas was sharply down, which we believe is indicative of reduced consumer confidence.'

John Stevenson, analyst at Peel Hunt, cut his rating to 'hold' from 'buy' and placed his target price under review.

'The surprise is twofold; core sales had held up well through the carpet autumn peak and signs of recovery were good at the time of the December interim results,' he said.

'Chief executive Wilf Walsh had also bought stock in early January, which we had taken as a positive flag.'

Adding to the UK retail woes was Alternative Investment Market stock Bonmarché (BONB), down 23% at 97.3p after the clothing retailer reported a 5.5% slump in fourth quarter sales.

'The clothing market became more challenging during this quarter, especially on the high street,' said chief executive Helen Connolly.

The triple whammy of bad news hurt retail stocks on the FTSE 100, which rose 13 points, or 0.2%, to 7,714.

Kingfisher (KGF), owner of the B&Q and Screwfix chains, was down 3.4% at 332p, while clothing retailer Next (NXT) fell 1% to £49.27.

On the FTSE 250, Dixons Carphone (DC) dropped 2.8% to 189.5p while small-cap furniture retailer DFS (DFSD) dropped 3.6% to 198.6p. 

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