B&Q hit by weak DIY market

B&Q owner Kingfisher felt further pain from the depressed home improvement market today as it revealed a 9% slide in like-for-like sales in the UK.

The company also warned promotional activity left its mark on margins, although the disappointment in the UK was offset by good progress in overseas markets, where Kingfisher generates more than half its business.

Kingfisher employs about 700 people in its B&Q home improvement stores in Ireland.

Overall, sales for the 13 weeks to January 28 were ahead 5.6% to £1.86bn (€2.7bn) - down by 0.5% on a like-for-like basis – while Kingfisher said it remained on course to meet profits expectations for the full financial year.

The 9% decline for B&Q in the UK is in line with most market forecasts following a fall of 8.4% reported in the previous three months.

Profits for 2005/06 will be announced on March 21 but analysts have ruled out an imminent improvement in trading as conditions in the home improvement market continue to be the toughest in the retail sector.

That view was endorsed by chief executive Gerry Murphy today, although he said the company had outperformed the overall DIY market and that a new management team had acted decisively to offset the pressure at B&Q.

Mr Murphy told shareholders: “The UK home improvement market remains depressed and price competitive.”

Initiatives to improve the performance have included more price promotions, improved ranges of ceramics and premium kitchens and the introduction of new service staff to 200 stores in 2006.

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