Sales at DIY giant Kingfisher’s flagship UK division slumped in the second quarter, affected partly by the closing down Sale of rival Focus, but the retailer expects to end the year in “excellent shape”.

Retail sales at Kingfisher’s UK arm fell 4.9% in total and 5.5% like-for-like in the 11 weeks to July 16. B&Q suffered a total sales decline of 6.7% and the same like-for-like.

However a strong performance in France, where Kingfisher runs the Castorama business helped the group an increase of 1% in total. Group like-for-likes fell 0.5% in the quarter.

The second quarter performance meant group sales in the 24 weeks to the same date were ahead by 2.9%, or 1.5% like-for-like.

Kingfisher chief executive Ian Cheshire said: “As anticipated, conditions in our second quarter were tougher than the first, which benefitted from favourable weather.

“The UK market remains challenging compounded by disruption in the second quarter from heavy stock clearance activity by a major competitor closing down. This clearance activity is now largely complete and looking ahead I am delighted that we have been able to secure excellent new sites for B&Q.

“Gross margins are ahead in all our major markets so far this quarter, supported by more direct sourcing and the gradual introduction of common ranges.”

 Cheshire concluded:”These are testing times for retailers, particularly in the UK, but also an opportunity for strong businesses such as ours to strengthen their position.

“We expect to emerge from this year in excellent shape and well prepared to start delivering the next phase of our growth plans.”