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Upbeat Kingfisher notes rising sales

Kingfisher, the Woolworths and B&Q retail group, provided further evidence of the recovery in consumer spending yesterday when it issued an upbeat trading statement for its third quarter.

The company said like-for-like sales in the three months to 2 November were 7.5 per cent ahead of the same period last year. Woolworths did well with a 9.4 per cent improvement in comparative sales. Toys have been a good seller with popular items including Buzz Lightyear from the Toy Story Disney movie and the perennial Barbie doll and Action Man. Children's clothing also performed well.

Kingfisher's B&Q DIY division turned in a good quarter with a 12.7 per cent sales increase and Comet, the electrical chain, impressed with a 13.9 per cent advance. Large-screen televisions, personal computers and Dyson vacuum cleaners are among the top sellers.

Superdrug's progress was more pedestrian with a 5.4 per cent like-for- like sales increase.

Worst performer was Darty, the French electrical retailer. Sales there were flat due to the weakness in the French economy.

The market had been expecting good news and Kingfisher shares edged 1.5p higher at 654p.

However, Nick Bubb of Mees Pierson said of the figures: "They're good but I'm a bit surprised the market has taken it so well because, in theory, they should have done a bit better than that."

Mr Bubb is forecasting full-year profits of pounds 375m, and pounds 440m in 1997.