Home Retail, Britain's biggest household goods retailer, said it will close a quarter of its Homebase home improvement stores by 2018 as it prioritises the development of its main Argos chain. 

The group said today its current estate of 323 Homebase stores will be reduced by 25% over the next four years through a combination of lease expirations and property exit deals. 

Homebase has 13 stores in Ireland, including in Dublin, Longford, Letterkenny and Killarney.

Home Retail said that Homebase's managing director Paul Loft will step down when a successor is found. 

The Homebase downsizing forms part of a strategic review carried out by Home Retail's new chief executive John Walden. 

The group also today posted a 13% rise in underlying first half profit to £30.9m in the six months to August 30, below analysts' expectations of £34.6m. 

Home Retail said it was on track to make underlying pre-tax profit for the 2014-15 year in line with market expectations - £127m - according to Reuters data. This is up from £115m in 2013-14. 

However, it said the full-year outcome will, as always, depend upon Christmas trading in its Argos division.