Kingfisher to step up expansion plans

B&Q owner Kingfisher says that it planned to step up its expansion after delivering higher profits in the teeth of the economic downturn.

The group has 856 stores, including nine in Ireland, but believes there is potential for more than 1,100 outlets over the long term, including more stores in Russia and China.

Chief executive Ian Cheshire said he was encouraged by a 22.5% rise in pre-tax profits to £670 million (€766m) in the year to January 29, despite sales remaining at £10.5 billion and a 3% drop in like-for-like sales in Britain and Ireland.

“Looking ahead, although I see no let up in the challenging environment in the short-term, I am excited by our future prospects,” he added.

Despite the sales squeeze, B&Q rebuilt its British profit margin to 5.6% from 3.2% a year earlier and is on track to achieve its 7% target, Kingfisher said.

It has targeted more of the building supplies market after introducing TradePoint across all its B&Q stores, a move which helped sales to the trade sector jump to £828m in the year from £700m a year earlier.

Other recent changes have included store revamps covering around 60% of its portfolio, the provision of self-service checkouts and reserve and collect for internet customers.

B&Q’s total sales fell 2.8% to £3.9bn, which Kingfisher said partly reflected its decision to limit the use of general, store-wide promotions. It saw strong demand for new kitchen ranges, particularly in the second half.

The company has 492 stores in Britain and Ireland — 330 B&Q and 162 under its Screwfix brand — plus 203 in France trading as Castorama and Brico Depot.

A further 161 outlets are located in Poland, China, Spain, Russia and Turkey, but Kingfisher said it hoped to double this figure over the long-term.

It is also eyeing an estate of 550 stores in Britain and Ireland, where it currently employs around 26,500 full-time staff.

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