A challenging market contributed to level group like-for-like sales
Kingfisher's sales rose during the past quarter, but like-for-like sales remained level. The home improvements group's year-on-year sales increased 7.1 per cent to£1.76 billion for the 13 weeks to January 29. However, like-for-like sales for the period rose only 0.6 per cent. Sales for the 12 months to January 29 increased by 8.7 per cent compared with the same period last year, to£7.65 billion. Like-for-like sales were up 3.9 per cent over the period.

Kingfisher chief executive Gerry Murphy said: 'Kingfisher delivered good fourth- quarter sales growth in France, Italy and China, offset by weaker performances in a more challenging UK market, and in a Polish market impacted by last year's VAT charges. With a continued focus on margins, costs and cash flow, Kingfisher expects to announce pre-exceptional profit before tax in line with analysts' estimates.'

In the UK, B&Q's sales grew 2.6 per cent over the quarter to£914.7 million, but like-for-like sales shrank by 1.2 per cent. The retailer said ranges such as flooring, lighting and wall decorations declined, while kitchen and bathroom sales performed well. Discounted ranges also sold strongly.

The retailer opened two new format warehouse stores during the quarter. Its direct building supplies arm Screwfix benefited from a new fulfilment centre, following acute delivery problems before Christmas.