More branches for the chop at B&Q owner Kingfisher

B&Q owner Kingfisher is to take the axe to more stores as profits at the DIY giant remain squeezed.

The firm has nearly 24,600 staff across its UK operations, including B&Q. Picture: Contributed

The group has also kicked off the search for a new chief executive to replace Veronique Laury, but has not yet set a date for her departure. She will remain in post until a successor has been appointed.

Kingfisher is looking to cut a further 15 stores group-wide over the next two years on top of plans to shut all 19 Screwfix outlets in Germany, leaving it with just an online presence for the brand in that country.

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It is understood that the majority of the 15 stores earmarked to be shut are in France.

B&Q’s turnaround has already seen the company shut 65 stores and cut some 3,000 jobs in the UK and Ireland. It has also been overhauling its ranges and improving its online offering, while recently announcing a £100 million investment as part of plans to lower everyday prices.

Kingfisher has nearly 24,600 staff in the UK and Ireland and more than 61,500 overall.

News of the latest restructuring plans came as the group reported a 52.8 per cent slide in pre-tax profits to £322m for the year to the end of January.

On an underlying basis and stripping out costs including £111m for store closures, pre-tax profits fell 13 per cent to £693m.

Laury said: “We have achieved radical organisational and behavioural change across Kingfisher over the last three years.

“We’ve done this against the backdrop of rapid structural change in retail alongside high levels of macroeconomic uncertainty, which are ongoing.

“Navigating these conditions while maintaining focus on a transformation of this scale has required huge commitment from our people.”

She added: “Leading the transformation has been so exciting but also very challenging. As the transformation approaches its final year, I believe it is right for someone else to lead the next phase of the ‘One Kingfisher’ journey.

“I will continue to give 100 per cent until the day I depart.”

Chairman Andy Cosslett said: “This year will mark a transition in our transformation journey having now reached a critical mass.

“We are starting to see clear evidence emerging that we can create a powerful and differentiated home improvement experience for our customers which will convert to profitable growth going forward.”

The results showed B&Q sales dropped 3 per cent on a like-for-like basis over the year, while Screwfix remained the star performer with a 4.1 per cent rise in comparable sales. Kingfisher said it will continue to roll out Screwfix stores in the UK.

Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor, noted: “There are signs of progress within the Kingfisher transformation plan, but the retail environment remains fiercely competitive and will continue to move on as the company tries to put its own house in order.

“One exception to [the] recent malaise has been the performance of its Screwfix division, which not only continues to contribute strongly, but has also been earmarked for further expansion.”