Sales slump hits B&Q

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The Independent Online

Retail group Kingfisher today said sales at its B&Q business were down nearly 9 per cent amid the slump in consumer spending.

The like-for-like figure - based on those stores trading for more than a year - reflected a 14 per cent slide in sales of kitchen and bathroom units and poor demand for seasonal ranges following poor weather in August.

Total revenues for the B&Q division fell 7.8 per cent to £887 million in the 13 weeks to 1 November.

The stagnant property market meant sales of DIY and room makeover products performed "relatively well" with a 3 per cent drop in the period.

Across the company's UK division, which also includes the trade business Screwfix, like-for-like sales were down 9.2 per cent in the 13 weeks to 1 November. Trading profits for the UK fell £9 million to £36 million, as cost initiatives helped the company offset falling sales.

Chief executive Ian Cheshire said: "Consumer confidence has clearly been shaken over the last few months by international economic events and this has impacted demand in all our markets."

The company also announced it had decided to scrap its Trade Depot venture after a review of its UK trade operations.

Trade Depot, which opened its first branch in 2005, has nine outlets but recorded a retail loss of £5 million in the last financial year.

Kingfisher said the move would allow it to focus resources on B&Q and Screwfix, where it has the potential for "higher and faster returns".

The company said the closure of the Trade Depot outlets will result in £20 million of exceptional costs in the current financial year.

Kingfisher shares opened 4 per cent lower following the third quarter trading update.

Seymour Pierce retail analyst Freddie George described the overall results as "encouraging", given that group-wide profits were down 4 per cent at £176 million and sales flat at £2.55 billion.

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