Kingfisher’s retail profit surged 38.5 per cent to £128m in the 13 weeks to May 2, beating expectations as seasonal products and favourable weather lifted sales.
Total group sales rose 2.4 per cent to £2.6bn while group like-for-likes slid 1.7 per cent.
Like-for-likes at the UK arm – which includes B&Q and Screwfix – grew 0.9 per cent, while total sales increased 2.9 per cent to £1.2bn. UK retail profits nearly doubled, rocketing 89.2 per cent to £61m thanks to higher volume sales and margin and cost improvements.
B&Q’s like-for-likes increased 3.2 per cent while total sales rose 4.6 per cent.
The retailer said that kitchen, bathroom and bedroom sales were “slightly up”, helped by improved merchandising and new ranges. It also said “recent competitor withdrawal”, such as the collapse of MFI last year, had helped. It said sales of core DIY and decorative products remained “relatively resilient”, down 2 per cent, aided by an “increasing consumer interest in DIY and room makeovers”.
At Kingfisher’s French arm – which includes Castorama and Brico Dépôt – like-for-likes declined 2.8 per cent while total sales increased 1.7 per cent to £1bn.
Kingfisher’s other International chains, including businesses in Eastern Europe and China, experienced a like-for-like sales decline of 6.3 per cent. Total sales increased 3.2 per cent to £414m.
Kingfisher said its Eastern European business “continued to grow both sales and profit”, with Russian like-for-likes climbing 14.3 per cent, while Turkey saw a decline of 7.8 per cent. Like-for-likes at its Polish arm fell 0.3 per cent.
China “continued to decline sharply in a weak housing market”, with like-for-likes plummeting 23.5 per cent. Losses increased by 25.7 per cent to £14m. The retailer said its restructuring process is “underway”, with a rationalisation of its store portfolio from 62 to 51 since the end of China’s first quarter, which ended on March 31.
Kingfisher group chief executive Ian Cheshire said: “We have made a good start to the year, boosted by better weather and a later Easter. B&Q in particular capitalised well on this increased demand, growing its market share and doubling its retail profit.
“Whilst there is still work to be done I am confident that B&Q is emerging from its renewal phase in better shape to convert sales volumes into cash profits. I am also encouraged that our French and Eastern European businesses continued to grow sales and profits in slower markets.
“Looking ahead, we are unlikely to see a weather driven seasonal bounce in demand again in 2009 and we continue to plan for a particularly tough balance of the year in our major markets. As a strong business with tight control over margins, costs and cash we are increasingly better placed to benefit when consumer demand improves.”