WARM autumn weather and the closure of rival Focus DIY helped ease the sales pressure at B&Q owner Kingfisher.
The retailer, which operates 536 B&Q and Screwfix stores in the UK and Ireland, said like-for-like sales fell by 0.7% in the 13 weeks to October 29, an improvement on the 1.3% decline in the previous quarter.
B&Q’s profits were up by 20% at £46m as trading benefited from the closure of Focus DIY and the conversion of 27 of its stores to the B&Q format.
The autumn weather also boosted sales of garden furniture, helping B&Q sell more barbecues in the last week of September than in the whole month of June.
Meanwhile, more than 2,000 of Kingfisher’s employees were celebrating a £7.4m windfall after two of its share incentive schemes matured, leading to an average gain of £3,516 per person.
Chief executive Ian Cheshire said: “Retailing is a people business and it is the hard work of our staff that has delivered this performance. I am delighted that they are sharing in the benefits.”
Like-for-like sales at B&Q were down by 0.9%, despite a 68% rise in garden furniture sales, which were boosted by the weather. But at the same time, B&Q saw a 78% increase in demand for winter grit and snow shovels as households prepare for the possibility of another Arctic onslaught.
Non-seasonal sales were down by 4%, reflecting the “generally weak consumer backdrop”.
Its 179 Screwfix stores saw total sales increase by 7% as the opening of four outlets and new ranges such as safety and workwear helped it offset a “challenging” market for its customer base of self-employed traders. The chain’s profits rose by 27% to £10m.
A further 35 Screwfix stores will open by the end of January as part of a drive to expand its trade supply arm and create 1,200 new jobs.
The group’s overseas stores put in a stronger sales performance. In France, where the group operates Castorama and Brico Depot, like-for-like sales rose by 1.9% and profits lifted by 18.8%, while losses in China were reduced. Total group profits rose by 13.9% to £273 on sales up 4.6% to £2.8bn.
Shares closed 2% or 5.7p higher at 261.3p after Mr Cheshire said the group was in “good shape” to continue growth.