B&Q owner Kingfisher today reported an improved sales trend at the DIY chain but warned that the weak consumer backdrop continued to hit the business.

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Like-for-like sales at B&Q in UK and Ireland fell 4% in the 13 weeks to October 27, an improvement on the 6% slide recorded during the weather-hit first half of the year.

The improvement was driven by higher sales of home improvement products as more customers cook and entertain at home with sales of built-in fridge freezers up 13% and built-in microwaves ahead 57%.

B&Q saw a 1.7% rise in retail profits to £45million, while the wider Kingfisher group, which also owns tools supplier Screwfix in the UK and the Castorama and Brico Depot chains in France, recorded broadly flat retail profits of £25m.

Screwfix, which opend 12 new outlets during the third quarter, grew total sales by 11% to £149m, despite the continued challenging trading conditions in the smaller tradesman market, with retail profit rising 20% to £14m.

Total group sales were up 0.8% at £2.7billion, as like-for-like sales fell 2.8% in France and by 0.8% across its other international stores, which include outlets in China and Russia.

The group has been driving sales of showroom products such as kitchens and bathrooms in an effort to help boost trade.

However, Freddie George, retail research analyst at Seymour Pierce, said the like-for-like sales figures were worse than expected and implied “a markedly weakening trend through the period”.

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