Home Retail-owned home enhancement chain Homebase has returned fire at B&Q, which last week launched a price-led advertising campaign targeting its arch-rival as the key Easter season approaches.

Homebase marketing director Ajay Kavan said he hopes a full-scale DIY price war will be avoided but warned that Homebase is ready to defend itself as necessary.

Following B&Q’s supermarket-style TV and print offensive (RW, last week), in which it claimed to be cheaper than Homebase on 90% of its 1,748 decorating products, Homebase aggressively laid out its own price credentials and highlighted its Nectar reward scheme.

In press ads that launched last Friday, Homebase said it is cheaper than B&Q on 1,016 interior decorating products. It highlighted Dulux, Crown and Hammerite paints that are 28%, 23% and 24%respectively cheaper than at B&Q.

Kavan said: “It is not our intention to start a price war in a challenging market. However, we will ensure that we offer our customers good value through competitive prices and our own compelling proposition, which includes Nectar points on our own exclusive ranges. What the competition chooses to do is up to them.”

Kavan would not comment on whether Homebase will run a similar campaign on TV.

The increased price focus comes as DIY groups prepare for Easter, traditionally a crucial sales period and vital this year because DIY retailers have had a difficult start to 2010 due to snow and cold weather in January and February.

The BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor found that in February gardening categories took a hit and “decorating and outdoor products suffered, as did trade building, with many projects put off until more clement weather”.

Oriel analyst Ramona Tipnis said she believes the two retailers’ campaigns relate to particular product areas and they are unlikely to signal an all-out price war, which she fears would “ruin profitability for both”.