UK & Ireland based home & DIY retailer B&Q saw like-for-like sales rise 1.5 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter of its financial year, to reach just under £1.1 billion.
In a trading statement published this morning, the firm’s parent company Kingfisher said that sales of seasonal categories at B&Q were up 15 per cent in the 13 weeks to April 30th compared to the same period in 2010, with garden furniture and outdoor products faring well.
Although the good weather experienced during the period helped boost trading for outdoor-specific goods it had a negative impact on big ticket items for inside the home, with indoor project sales slumping by around ten per cent.
Retail profit at the UK and Eire business grew by 10.1 per cent to £74 million, but gross margin was slightly down year-on-year as seasonal products and targeted promotions proved popular.
Meanwhile total sales and retail profit at Kingfisher’s tools and plumbing specialist Screwfix grew significantly, and stood at £124 million and £9 million respectively for the quarter.
Kingfisher owns businesses across Europe, and it was in France where sales were particularly strong during Q1. Good performances by its Castorama and Brico Dépôt brands helped drive up overall group retail profit by 20.9 per cent.
Ian Cheshire, Kingfisher Group CEO, said: “I am pleased that we have made a strong start to the year, capitalising on more favourable weather conditions right across Europe and extended public holidays in the UK.
“We delivered sales growth in all three of our divisions, with continued margin initiatives and improved cost productivity delivering retail profits up over 20 per cent.”
Economic indicators suggest that UK retailers will struggle to sell big ticket items for the remainder of the year, and Cheshire is aware that the forthcoming months will be challenging for the business.
“Whilst we have got off to a good start, it remains our view that this year is likely to be a tough one for all retailers, especially in the UK,” he remarked.
“It is also likely that the early spring weather will have brought forward some of our outdoor seasonal sales. So we remain very focused on our well established programme of self-help to deliver a solid full-year result, especially with the key summer trading period in France still ahead of us.
“We are also busy mobilising the business for the next phase of our longer term growth.”
Part of the strategy for future growth will involve the opening of additional stores in the UK, and Kingfisher recently paid £23 million to buy 31 leasehold properties from failed homewares competitor Focus DIY.
Subject to approval from the Competition Commission and discussions with the landlords involved, these stores will reopen in the B&Q format in due course.