Kingfisher, the owner of the B&Q retail chain, posted a leap in third quarter profits, boosted by the group's self-help initiatives and "bizarre" spending patterns during the balmy autumnal weather in the UK.
The DIY group, which has 913 stores in eight countries in Europe and Asia, also hailed "strong profit" performances in Russia, Turkey and France, although higher costs dented its bottom line in Poland.
In the UK and Ireland, Kingfisher gave the struggling retail sector a shot in the arm by posting a 22 per cent jump in retail profits to £56m for the 13 weeks to 29 October. The rise was driven a 50 basis-point increase in gross margins, as it benefited from increased direct sourcing and robust sales of higher-margin decorative and lighting products.
Ian Cheshire, the chief executive of Kingfisher, admitted it had been helped by the "slightly bizarre" weather in the period, which saw it sell as many barbecues in the last week of September, as in the whole month of June. But during the same week, consumers in the north and Scotland were spending frantically in anticipation of a severe winter, which resulted in its sales of winter grit and snow shovels surging by 78 per cent in the quarter.
Mr Cheshire said the 27 stores it acquired from the defunct Focus DIY were trading "better than we thought". Kingfisher posted a 14 per cent rise in retail profits to £273m, on sales up nearly 5 per cent to £2.81bn.