DIY retailer Wickes experienced a 2.4% decline in like-for-likes in the seven weeks to February 20, but full-year profits soared as the chain grew its market share.
Core product sales declined 8% on a like-for-like basis in the seven-week period while kitchens and bathrooms - which account for about 25% of Wickes’ turnover - soared 23.3%.
Wickes managing director Jeremy Bird said that recent trading had tailed off because of the VAT increase in January, which meant shoppers bought some of their purchases forward, as well as the snow last month, which was a “serious impediment to business”.
For its full year to December 31 parent company Travis Perkins’ retail division - which is largely made up of Wickes, but also includes Tile Giant - saw pre-tax profits rocket from £10.2m to £57m.
Like-for-like sales increased 3.2% for the year, while revenue across its retail arm grew from £940.7m to £980.7m. Operating margin increased from 5.1% to 5.8%.
Bird said the retailer had benefitted from MFI’s collapse at the end of 2008, which he estimated left a £400m hole in the market.
Bird said 2010 will be a “really tough year”, due to the upcoming general election and depressed consumer confidence, but added that Wickes has “many things up its sleeve” for the year.
“We have grown share for three years now, and we’ve started well in 2010,” he added. “We now have a completely different commercial strategy, and our TV advertising has been very successful.”