Sunshine lifts sales and retail profits at DIY chain B&Q

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The Independent Online

B&Q, the Kingfisher-owned DIY chain, posted a strong rebound in profits and underlying sales in the first quarter, boosted by a later Easter and sizzling sales of charcoal BBQs during the recent warm weather.

However, the DIY group warned that it was unlikely to see such a weather-driven seasonal sales bounce again in 2009, and it continued to plan for tough conditions in its major markets.

The UK's biggest DIY chain, B&Q said sales of outdoor products soared by more than 30 per cent in the 13 weeks to 2 May, citing sales of charcoal BBQs up by 148 per cent and metal garden furniture higher by 140 per cent, as customers enjoyed themselves in their gardens.

However, Ian Cheshire, the group chief executive of Kingfisher, cautioned: "If you strip out the seasonal sales, the rest [of B&Q's trade] is trundling along around minus 2 to 3 per cent."

Despite sales of core DIY and decorative products being down by 2 per cent, Mr Cheshire said: "DIY was becoming cool again" and sales of tools were up by 20 per cent.

The 322-store DIY retail chain grew its total sales by 4.6 per cent to £1.04bn, and like-for-like sales rose by 3.2 per cent. B&Q doubled its retail profit to £58m and grew its gross margin by 80 basis points over the quarter, despite tough comparatives. Mr Cheshire said: "Over the last 18 months, the work of the team on costs and margins has given us a lot of self-help."

Kingfisher, which has operations in countries including Poland, France and Russia, posted total group sales up 2.4 per cent to £2.6bn over the first quarter, although overall like-for-likes fell by 1.7 per cent. The group's retail profit jumped by 40.1 per cent to £128m. But sales at its troubled 51-store operation in China fell by 23.7 per cent.