Wickes owner Travis Perkins reported a 1.7% like-for-like decline in its retail business in the 17 weeks to May 1 as “wary consumers hold on to their money”.

The retail arm, which is largely made up of Wickes, but also Tile Giant and Tool Station, reported a 0.3% increase in revenue in the period.

The retailer said Wickes “gained market share and maintained gross margins over this period”, although like-for-likes in Wickes’ core products declined 5.1% in the period.

However Wickes has reported an improved trend in recent weeks, with like-for-like decline softening to -3.8% in the most recent nine week period, “despite the disadvantage of an earlier Easter holiday.

“The improving trend has continued into the first two weeks of May,” the retailer said.

In the 17 week period Wickes made “significant gains” in kitchen and bathroom, with like-for-likes climbing 12.6%, reflecting “the impact of a number of new kitchen and bathroom trading initiatives launched throughout 2009”.

Last year the DIY retailer increased the amount of space in store devoted to kitchens and bathrooms and also invested in TV advertising. However, the retailer added that the rate of market share gains in the category will “begin to abate through 2010 as Wickes’ new strategy in the kitchen and bathroom market begins to mature”.

Travis Perkins chief executive Geoff Cooper said: “Although consumers and homeowners still appear to be waiting to see what life is going to be like on this side of the election, we are pleased with the overall progress the Group has made in the first four months of the year.

“Current trading is ahead of management expectations, helping us to make inroads into the adverse effects of the weather-affected first two months of the year.

“We continue to take market share in testing conditions, underlining the strength of our organic growth strategy.”