B&Q says product availability close to normal after recent supply woes

B&Q owner Kingfisher has reported “resilient” trading as product availability improved following recent supply pressures.

The retail giant, which also owns the Screwfix brand, said sales were in line with expectations after they slipped by 5.8 per cent to £3.24 billion over the three months to April 30 against the same period last year.

This represented a 16.2 per cent like-for-like increase against pre-pandemic levels from 2019.

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Kingfisher told shareholders it also saw an improvement in its sales decline over the first two weeks of May, edging 2.5 per cent lower against sales from the same period last year.

The group highlighted that this has been driven by “resilient demand” across both its DIY and trade operations.

Adjusted pre-tax profits for the current year are therefore in line with previous guidance of around £770 million.

However, the group said it remains “mindful” of the heightened economic and geopolitical uncertainty which has emerged since the start of the year.

Chief executive Thierry Garnier told investors: “While facing very strong comparatives in the prior year, our continued strategic progress has enabled us to retain a significant proportion of the increased sales during the pandemic.

Shoppers returning to a B&Q branch in Scotland during summer 2020 following the initial lockdown as stores were classified as essential. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

“We continue to effectively manage inflationary and supply chain pressures. As a result, our product availability is now very close to ‘normal’ levels across all our banners, and we continue to deliver value for our customers through our own exclusive brands and competitive prices.

“Looking forward, we are reiterating our profit guidance for [the full year]. We are focused on delivering on our strategic objectives and growth initiatives, including the growth of our scalable e-commerce marketplace, the expansion of Screwfix in the UK and France, new store openings in Poland, further increasing our trade customer base.”

Kingfisher added: “We remain mindful of the heightened macroeconomic and geopolitical uncertainty that has emerged since the start of the year. Our priority remains top line growth, and strong and consistent execution.

“We are targeting further share gains in our markets, and continue to focus on our strategic objectives and investments for growth.

“We are committed to continue managing our gross margin effectively in an inflationary environment, as we did successfully last year. Furthermore, we remain active and responsive in managing our operating cost base.”

The group also confirmed plans to hand a further £300 million back to shareholders in its latest share buyback programme.

Richard Hunter, head of markets at investment platform Interactive Investor, said: “Kingfisher is unquestionably in a better position than it was leading up to the pandemic, although it is becoming increasingly difficult to match the highs experienced during lockdowns as the DIY boom played into its hands.

“The company is now making additional comparisons with a period of three years ago, representing the business as it had previously been before an enforced and accelerated transformation plan took hold due to the restraints of the pandemic.

“Indeed, there is much evidence that the business has progressed, with revenues for the current period ahead by 16 per cent over the three years and with a notable shift to online sales.”

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