France's top DIY chains contest number one slot

Controversy has erupted over who is top dog in the French DIY market.

According to leading French newspaper Le Monde, Leroy Merlin has ousted Kingfisher-owned Castorama as the number one DIY group. However, Kingfisher has rejected the claim and insists it remains the market leader.

Leroy Merlin's recent purchase of French chain Weldom has pushed the group's market share to 31 per cent, compared with 30 per cent for Castorama and its sister Kingfisher chain Brico Depot, Le Monde reported.

Kingfisher reacted with disbelief and said its French group market share was 21.3 per cent versus 20.6 per cent for Leroy Merlin. A spokesman said the figures presented in Le Monde gave only a partial picture of each group's share.

No comment was available from Leroy Merlin, which is majority owned by the Mulliez family and has more than 300 stores in seven countries.

A Kingfisher spokesman said: 'The key thing for Kingfisher is the Castorama business is improving and has been out-performing in France.'

He said market share per se was not necessarily the best indicator of performance.

Leroy Merlin's eponymous chain grabbed a greater share of the French market than the Castorama chain in late 2001.

In the past year, Castorama - which operates 100 eponymous stores and 60 Brico Depot outlets in France - has improved its product range and supply chain, renovated stores and improved prices.