Home Retail Group , Britain's No. 1 household goods retailer, has named a former Best Buy executive to be the new boss of its struggling Argos business and given him a mandate for change.

The firm, which last month posted dire Christmas sales, named John Walden on Wednesday as managing director of the 759-store Argos chain, reporting to group chief executive Terry Duddy, who had taken on the role temporarily after the departure of Sara Weller last April.

Walden, a 52-year-old American, will start at the end of February.

Walden was at top U.S. electricals retailer Best Buy between 1999 and 2007 before moving to Sears and then setting up his own consultancy business, his roles giving him vast experience in internet, catalogue and home shopping strategy.

Argos, facing intense competition from supermarkets, specialists and internet players, has been particularly hard hit in the economic downturn because its predominantly low-income customers are suffering the most severe of budget squeezes.

We look forward to John bringing a valuable, fresh perspective to the future development of Argos, said Duddy.

A spokesman for the firm added: Terry is quite clear he is giving him a mandate to say, 'This is where I think we should be going'.

Some analysts say Argos has too many stores, but Duddy has countered that none of them are losing money, while a big closure programme would come with a heavy restructuring cost.

He argues that Argos can manage its store portfolio as 180 stores are up for lease renewal or have break clauses over the next five years.

With 40 percent of Argos sales now made over the Internet and 10 percent of internet sales made via smartphones, Duddy's strategy is to invest in a variety of purchasing options for customers.

A key driver of growth in this area is Argos's online Check & Reserve service, which requires in-store pick-up by customers.

Shares in Home Retail, which have lost over half their value in the last year, were up 1.2 percent at 108.6 pence at 10:36 a.m., valuing the business at 813 million pounds.

Home Retail shares were up 1.77 percent at 109.3 pence at 1114 GMT, while the European sector index <.SXRP> was up 1.56 percent.

At first glance this looks like a good appointment, given Walden's experience of internet and electricals retailing at Best Buy and Sears, said Espirito Santo Investment Bank analyst Richard Cathcart.

However, Liberum Capital analyst Simon Irwin said he believed Home Retail's board was in denial about the extent of change required, and today's announcement does not indicate that this will change.

He said neither Best Buy nor Sears had been conspicuous successes online and Walden had no experience of either the UK retail market or property market.

(Reporting by James Davey; editing by Paul Sandle and Will Waterman)