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Shares in Card Factory are down over 7%, at the tail end of the FTSE250, after reporting negative first half like-for-like sales growth (-0.2% Year on Year; excluding new stores) blamed on bad weather and a still cautious consumer.

Even if this suggests an improvement to merely flat growth in the second quarter vs -0.4% in Q1 (at the time attributed to tough comparable growth and difficult retail environment), growth in the first half of the year is still well down on 3.1% this time last year.

Furthermore, total sales growth in the first half (including new stores) of 3.2% may imply 3.4% growth in the second quarter after just 3.0% in the first three months, but growth in the first half is still almost halved from 6.1% last year.

Even these small positives, however, are eclipsed by official EBITDA guidance of £88-91m for the 2019 full year implying a contraction of between 3.1% and 6.3%, adding to declines in profits of 4.6% in 2018 full year numbers. And this is still dependent on the critical final quarter doing as well as usual on account of Christmas.

Even if network expansion is slower than last year (25 openings vs 30 in the first half; on-track for 50 this year), shareholders are questioning the logic of expansion for total sales growth while like-for-like is in decline, especially with Brexit uncertainty growing to hamper UK footfall.

Even confirmation of a 5-10p special dividend is failing to inspire, probably because it will be well down on the 15p special that shareholders have benefited from annually for the last three years, thus depressing the implied total yield.

That said the shares remain above the February lows of 185p which were tested in March/April and flirted with again in June/July.

This could yet see bargain hunters swoop in again hoping for yet another short-term rally back up to 210p or better. Shares may already be off their worst levels.

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Mike van Dulken

Accendo Markets’ Mike van Dulken has worked in the City since 2002, with some of the biggest names in the City. His career kicked off at Jefferies as an equity analyst before a 2007 move to Société Générale saw him help service hedge funds with short-term trade ideas during the financial crisis.

Head of Research at Accendo since 2010, covering shares, indices, commodities and FX, he is regularly quoted in the financial press. Accendo Markets has been voted Best CFD research Service by ADVFN in 2017 and 2018.

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