Kingfisher warns of steepening decline in sales at B&Q

THE fall in sales at UK DIY retailer B&Q has steepened, its parent company, Kingfisher, said today.

But the group, which also owns the Screwfix trade supplies chain in the UK and the French-based Castorama and Brico Depot DIY brands, said its overall profits were set to rise by 20%.

Kingfisher, which has 360 B&Q stores in the UK and Ireland, said like-for-like sales at the chain fell 2.5% in the 13 weeks to January 28, worse than City forecasts for a 2% decline and down from 0.9% the previous quarter.

The mild autumn weather meant a 50% surge in sales of lawnmowers and barbecues but this was offset by lower demand for heating products and a 5% fall in sales across its indoor range. It benefited from the closure of rival Focus DIY earlier in the year, having bought 29 of its stores.

Kingfisher expects its overall profits for the year to the end of January to be in line with City hopes for a 20% rise to �799million, helped by strong sales growth at its overseas division, which includes Castorama and Brico Depot.

Sales in France were up 3.7% on a like-for-like basis at �4.5billion across the year, compared with a 1.4% drop to �4.4billion in the UK and Ireland, it said.

The picture was brighter at the Screwfix chain, which recently opened its 200th store, and enjoyed a 2.2% increase in like-for-like sales in the quarter as it rolled out specialist trade desks for plumbers and electricians.

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Freddie George, a retail analyst at Seymour Pierce stockbrokers, said unemployment and declining house prices in the UK and the impact of austerity measures in France were a threat to the group.

However, he added: “Earnings will be driven by significant growth in direct sourcing over the next three years, the development of common ranges to all stores and the further expansion of own label products.”