Kingfisher sales remain under pressure

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The Independent Online

B&Q firm Kingfisher today said UK sales continued to slide as it slashed prices in a "particularly difficult time for consumers".

The group said B&Q sales declined 5.9 per cent on a like-for-like basis in the 13 weeks to January 31, an improvement on the previous quarter as customers bought more so-called "big-ticket" kitchen and bathroom products.

Heavy discounting shaved £17 million off gross margins at the chain, but Kingfisher said this was fully offset by cost savings.

Total revenues at B&Q declined by 5.5 per cent to £825 million.

Across the company's UK division, which also includes the trade business Screwfix, like-for-like sales were down 6.8 per cent and total sales fell 4.2 per cent to £947 million.

Screwfix delivered total sales growth of 4.2 per cent to £115 million, which the company said was driven by the continued roll-out of trade counters.

Ian Cheshire, group chief executive, said: "We continued to take share in our major markets during Q4 and have managed our cashflow in what was a particularly difficult time for consumers."

Kingfisher also trades as Castorama and Brico Depot in France and has operations worldwide, including in China.

It said it expected to meet analyst expectations of £364 million for full year profits after total sales across the group rose 11 per cent to £10.03 billion for 2008.



Kingfisher said UK like-for-like sales were down 6.5 per cent for the full year and total revenues dropped 2.6 per cent to £4.3 billion.

The firm said sales in France were up 3.1 per cent and in other international operations revenue rose 7 per cent.

But the property slowdown in China hit its B&Q business, resulting in a 31.2 per cent fall in like-for-like sales.

For the full year, Kingfisher said net debt would be below £1.1 billion, which was in line with its target.

Mr Cheshire said: "With a strong and experienced management team in place, we now enter what is anticipated to be a very challenging year in good shape with a robust balance sheet, leading market positions and an international portfolio of retail brands with strong value positions."

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