Home Retail , Britain's No.1 household goods retailer, said fourth-quarter sales continued to tumble at both its catalogue-based Argos chain and Homebase do-it-yourself stores as cash-strapped shoppers cut spending on non-essential goods.

The firm said on Thursday it was on track to meet analysts' profit expectations for the year ended February 25, which average around 99 million pounds, down sharply from the 254 million delivered in the previous financial year.

Many British retailers are finding it tough going as consumers grapple with inflation, muted wage growth, government austerity measures, worries about job security, a stagnant housing market and the impact of the euro zone debt crisis.

Argos, facing intense competition from supermarkets, specialists and internet players, has been particularly hard hit because its predominantly low-income customers are suffering the most severe squeeze on household budgets.

American John Walden started as Argos's new managing director last month and has been given a free rein to examine all options for the struggling business, including closing some of its 750 shops.

Sales at Argos stores open over a year dropped 8.5 percent in the 8 weeks to February 25, broadly in line with the third-quarter fall of 8.8 percent and due largely to plunging sales of consumer electronics goods.

The gross profit margin at the chain was flat.

Like-for-like sales at Homebase, Britain's second-biggest home improvements retailer behind Kingfisher's B&Q , slumped 6.5 percent following a third-quarter decline of 2.6 percent, while gross margin was up 175 basis points.

Home Retail warned in January it would cut its full-year dividend for the first time since it listed in 2006.

Shares in the firm , which have lost nearly half of their value over the last year, closed on Wednesday at 115 pence, valuing the business at about 895 million pounds.

(Reporting by James Davey and Mark Potter; Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters)