Shopfitters are hitting hard times as they start to bear the brunt of retailers’ attempts to cut costs as the economic climate toughens.

Last week, the UK’s largest shopfitting outfit, Styles & Wood, which counts most of the major retailers among its clients, issued a profit warning that sent shares plummeting 60 per cent.

Styles & Wood chairman Gerard Quiglioti said retailers were not cancelling store builds, but that it was “taking longer to get on site”. He added: “It’s the uncertainty at the moment that’s a bit of a problem; all the stats are in the right place.”

David Stanley, business development director at rival shopfitting giant Wates Retail, agreed that it was taking longer to get to the implementation stage. “Particularly with some of the bigger jobs, it’s taking longer and longer,” he said.

Stanley added that retailers are squeezing margins and claimed that the climate has definitely worsened recently. “Pencils are having to be very sharp and it’s a question of how far do you go,” he said.

In Retail Week’s Top Shopfitters League, published last September, Styles & Wood and Wates occupied the first and second positions respectively, with annual sales of£268.6 million and£130 million.