Weaker French demand weighs on Kingfisher

 
Kasmira Jefford
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ES i

ES in Kingfisher took a hit yesterday after the B&Q and Castorama owner said weaker-than-expected demand in France offset a stronger sales performance in Britain.

The DIY giant, which also owns Brico Depot and Screwfix, said adjusted pre-tax profits fell by 2.3 per cent to £384m in the six months to 1 August, blaming adverse currency movements and tough trading in France.

Shares closed down 2.5 per cent last night to 351.30p.

The home improvements market has struggled in the UK, with rival retailer Homebase also announcing plans last year to close a quarter of its stores, blaming the rise of a generation lacking DIY skills.

However, Kingfisher chief executive Veronique Laury, who took over as chief executive in January, has adopted a more bullish view, arguing that the industry just needs to create the “right proposition” to meet the demands of the younger generation.

Laury launched a new plan to reshape Kingfisher, which includes closing 60 unprofitable B&Q stores and unifying the different business by adopting similar store formats and products in all countries.

Kingfisher said it will also look to expand its 412-strong Screwfix estate to well beyond 600 stores to provide greater convenience for tradesmen. The store openings will help offset the B&Q closures and offer new jobs for some of the 3,000 staff at risk.

Like-for-like sales at Screwfix rose by 16.5 per cent in the period thanks new store openings, ranges and strong growth in orders from mobile phones.

Meanwhile, its larger, consumer-focused B&Q stores saw a 0.7 per cent rise in underlying sales.