Good weather and a hike in online sales helped Wickes limit its like-for-like sales fall to 2.4 per cent in the six months to June 30.
Core product like-for-likes fell 5.9 per cent while kitchen and bathrooms jumped 16.6 per cent.
Wickes parent Travis Perkins’ retail division – which also includes specialist chains Tile Giant and ToolStation – generated a 12.5 per cent uplift in EBIT, while turnover declined 1.8 per cent.
In July Wickes’ like-for-likes increased 1 per cent. Net margin improved 12.5 per cent in the six month period.
Wickes said there had been “excellent” rates of growth in kitchens, backed by a “strong television advertising campaign which significantly improved brand recognition”.
Wickes managing director Jeremy Bird said: “We’re very pleased. The weather helped – it was the best for more than 10 years – and the demise of MFI was helpful too.”
He added that online sales had achieved treble-digit growth, as the new TV ad campaign and catalogue drove traffic to the retailer’s site. Wickes will trial a click and collect service in some stores this year.
Bird said: “We’ll continue to outperform the market, but the market’s still tough. We won’t see recovery until 2011. This is a time for self-help.”
Wickes opened one store in the period and expects to open another two this calendar year. “The economy is not sound enough for us to be making big investments in new space,” said Bird. The chain also reduced headcount by 7 per cent.
Like-for-likes at 80-store Tile Giant slumped 15.2 per cent but there was an “improved trend” towards the end of the period. Two new stores opened. Travis Perkins said it has “continued to grow” Tile Giant and is part way through an initiative to maximise buying synergies across other parts of the group.
Travis Perkins’ revenue declined 13 per cent to £1.45bn, while pre-tax profit beat forecasts but still slumped 27 per cent to £90m.
Numis analyst Nick Coulter said: “The Travis update provides further evidence of robust trading in the DIY category of late. But Travis remains mindful of the VAT reversal, the creeping impact of unemployment and the fact that the MFI-impact in kitchens and bathrooms will begin to annualise in the second half.”
Pali International analyst Nick Bubb said Travis Perkins “comfortably beat interim profit expectations” but added that at the analysts’ meeting Travis was “nervous about retail in 2010”.