Winter storms give B&Q fence sales a lift


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The Independent Online

B&Q’s owner Kingfisher may be praying for gales rather than sunshine after demand for fence panels soared following February’s storms.

Sales of fence panels soared 86 per cent in the first quarter, the retailer announced on Thursday, as it sold enough fencing to stretch 370 miles.

Its chief executive, Sir Ian Cheshire, said: “A huge number of fences were ripped up by the storms and broken. I feel sorry for our customers but I’m pleased at the trade.”

But shares in Kingfisher fell nearly 5 per cent to 397p after its 20 per cent rise in retail profits to £142m for the period fell short of analysts’ expectations and raised fears over its margins.

Tony Shiret, an analyst at Espirito Santo, said: “The gross margin decline is likely in our view to have been focused in B&Q where the company continues to be indecisive between Everyday Low Price and promotional pricing. We are not so sure that the B&Q pricing strategy is clear enough.”

Sir Ian countered the claims, saying lower-margin gardening products and a promotion on kitchens had temporarily hit margins in the quarter.

The group reported a 6.1 per cent rise in sales after warm weather and a surge in customers over Easter drove sales. But he sounded a note of caution, warning that the bounce in sales had been against a tough period last year.

Kingfisher also announced that about £100m of surplus cash is to be returned to investors through a special dividend of 4.2p a share.