Dixons Retail said "phenomenal" demand for tablet computers drove sales in its home and Nordic markets, though they continued to fall in southern Europe.

Dixons is Europe's second-biggest electrical goods retailer and is home to the Currys and PC World chains in Ireland and Britain, Elkjop in Nordic countries, UniEuro in Italy and Kotsovolos in Greece.

It said group sales at stores open over a year rose 3% in the 12 weeks to January. 5, its fiscal third quarter. That compared with analysts' consensus forecast of an increase of 1.5% to 2% and a first half rise of 3%.

"Tablet sales were phenomenal across our markets, which was good to see but which impacted overall headline margins somewhat," chief executive Sebastian James said. "White goods were also strong, particularly in the UK," he added.

Dixons said its gross margins fell 0.5%, mainly because of the strength of tablets in its product mix. James said the group sold "well over 1 million" tablets in its third quarter.

The company said its full-year underlying profit before tax was expected to be in line with market expectations of £75-85m.

Like-for-like sales in the UK and Ireland rose 8% and were up 11% in northern Europe. But in the southern Europe division, which includes Italy and Greece, like-for-like sales fell 8%. The company said that Britain and Ireland and Northern Europe both beat market forecasts, while the decline in southern Europe was in line with forecasts.