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Electronics Boutique forecasts monster Christmas

With plenty of new console games due to hit the stores in the run-up to the festive season, retailers are happy

The UK's largest computer games and software retailer beat analyst expectations on Tuesday with a big jump in sales, and said it was bullish about future prospects.

Electronics Boutique saw its turnover rise 25 percent to £143.1m in the six months to 31 July 2001. Like-for-like sales increased by 23 percent. Despite the slowdown in the technology sector, the company seems to be making a success of its business strategy, which is based on selling games for consoles such as the PlayStation, PS2 and Nintendo Game Boy Advance, as well as for the PC market.

In the six months to the end of July 2001, Electronics Boutique made a pre-tax loss of £4.6m, an improvement on the £6.5m loss it registered for the same period the year before.

Better times are ahead for both Electronics Boutique and the games industry, according to company chairman Peter Lewis.

"We have made an excellent start to the second half with like-for-like sales up 46 percent in the nine weeks to 29 September," said Lewis. But what really excites him, he said, is the array of new games that will hit the shelves in the run-up to Christmas. "There is a very strong schedule of new releases for the Christmas season," he said. "[We] expect to benefit particularly from titles for Game Boy Advance, PlayStation2 and, still, PlayStation One," he told shareholders.

Sony's decision to cut the price of a PlayStation2 to £199 will also help Electronics Boutique, Lewis claimed.

The signs are that an awful lot of new games will come to market this autumn and winter. On 23 November -- traditionally a popular date for new releases -- at least 12 top-priced games will be released just for the PlayStation2. This will include a new James Bond game, the sequel to the popular SSX, and Virtua Tennis 2.

The weekend before is likely to be just as hectic. The Harry Potter game will hit the shops on 16 November, as will Pro Evolution Soccer -- a football simulation that many in the gaming world believe will give FIFA 2002 stiff competition.

While this avalanche of new titles is good news for Electronics Boutique, some industry experts fear there is a danger that some perfectly decent games could sell poorly, due to the likely massive competition between rival games publishers to get their latest releases on the front of gaming magazines, and prominently placed within high-street stores.

Shareholders in Electronics Boutique were told on Tuesday that their dividends would increase by 21 percent -- a sign, according to the company, of the board's "confidence in the future prospects" of the business.

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