Profits at Travis Perkins’ retail division – DIY giant Wickes and specialist retailer Tile Giant – fell last year in “extremely challenging” market conditions.

However, trading at Wickes has subsequently improved and Travis Perkins reported “good momentum” at the business. 

Adjusted operating profit at the consumer division fell 15.9% to £69m in the year to December 31, 2018, when sales slipped 0.9% to £1.6bn.

Wickes’ adjusted operating profit declined by 19% in the year. Sales fell 2.5% last year, or 4.4% like-for-like.

The retailer reported: “The UK DIY market environment has been extremely challenging, driven by the wider macro environment, with declining consumer confidence, and through competitive pricing pressure.

“The first half was particularly difficult, with poor weather conditions in March and April impacting the Easter trading period.”

Kitchen and bathroom sales were particularly hard hit in the first half.

However, sales improved in the fourth quarter following better lead generation and the withdrawal of competitors from design-and-install services.

The retailer said: “Selective price investments in specific core DIY categories, combined with early signs of the competitive price pressure easing, helped to drive positive sales growth in half-two, with an encouraging trend throughout quarter-four.”

Travis Perkins chief executive John Carter said the group, which includes the eponymous builders’ merchants and Toolstation, had achieved a “solid year”.

He said: “While we remain positive about the long-term outlook for our end markets, we are planning for uncertain market conditions to continue in the near term.

“The group remains focused on self-help actions to underpin performance in the near term, while continuing to invest for the future.”