PAVING stone maker Marshalls today said sales were under more pressure in a tough trading climate as annual profits fell by almost half.
The Huddersfield-based firm said: "The overall demand outlook remains uncertain with current sales volumes continuing to reduce."
Marshalls, whose pre-tax profits fell 46% to £22.5 million during 2008, is also slashing dividend payouts to conserve cash.
In January the firm said it planned to close two concrete plants at Llay in North Wales and Hambrook in West Sussex and cut costs at its consumer arm, putting a total of 135 jobs at risk.
Last year Marshalls also closed concrete factories in Cannock,Staffordshire, and Sawley in Nottinghamshire.
Marshalls' public sector and commercial arm - which accounts for around 59% of revenues - has better visibility, but domestic markets are still weak.
The firm expects a clearer picture of prospects for the year following Easter, although the division - which saw like-for-like sales fall 15% last year - is still at a low ebb.
Chief executive Graham Holden said: "Low consumer confidence continues to impact the domestic market, and the short term winter weather conditions and the actions of distributors to reduce their inventories is distorting the underlying picture further."
But Marshalls is the biggest player in the domestic driveway and patio market - targeting a potential 8.9 million homes.
The firm said its cost-cutting moves, which also involve scaling back capital spending by around half, would help it weather the storm and leave it well-set for an upturn.
As the credit crunch hits first-time buyers and brings housebuilding to a virtual standstill, Marshalls' installers said they had noticed trends towards older customers and the 'Don't Move, Improve' market.
The company, which is the current sponsor of the Chelsea Flower Show, is also involved in projects for the London 2012 Olympics.