B&Q owner Kingfisher said yesterday it was pinning its hopes on the World Cup to fuel a sales rise after a first quarter blighted by poor weather.
The group said it had almost sold out of a garden gnome dressed in the England team kit ahead of the tournament and was also selling wheelbarrows and gazebos decked with the England flag.
Chief executive Ian Cheshire said: “I’m also sure that some of the effects of the World Cup will prompt people to buy the odd barbecue late on.”
Kingfisher was hit by poor weather earlier in the year, with sales in the UK down two per cent on a like-for-like basis at £1.17bn. However, profits rose 13 per cent to £72m in the 13 weeks to 1 May.
Cheshire blamed the weather for the drop in like-for-like sales, adding it was “pretty rubbish against last year when it was actually fairly nice”.
Once the French and other international businesses are included, group sales were flat at £2.64bn and profits rose 14.5 per cent at £146m.
The chief executive added: “This is just the first quarter of what feels like could be a very strong year.
“The headwinds we anticipated at the start of the year look set to continue, but we are in good shape and well prepared.”
Kingfisher’s bank balance has moved into the black with net cash of £86m, according to
the latest tally.
That figure has come down from an overdraft of £250m at the end of January.
At its steepest the company had a debt pile of £1.6bn two years ago.
Cheshire said he was cautious about the outlook with the upcoming Budget key to any long-term revival on the high street. He said: “It is not just about whether or not VAT is raised but what happens to the totality of tax changes, and most importantly how consumers behave after they have seen them.”
Kingfisher runs over 830 stores in eight countries, including the Castorama and Brico Depot chains in France.