Wickes reports turnaround in kitchen and bathroom category

The struggling home-improvement chain Wickes saw a “positive start” to 2019 with both its core DIY and KBB showroom categories posting “encouraging sales growth” for its first quarter trading period.

Like-for-like sales at Wickes grew 10% in the three months to end of March as its parent firm Travis Perkins, which also owns KBB merchant chain Benchmarx, said its showroom category benefited “from a continued improvement in execution and a strong order book carried over from 2018”.

Competitor decisions to exit the design and install service for end-consumers in the second half of 2018 was also given as a reason for the pick-up in KBB sales, despite the continued political uncertainty surrounding UK’s exit from the European Union.

Overall, the group reported like-for-like sales growth of 7.3% and total sales growth of 5.4%, with its trade business, also doing well, up 0.6%.

Travis Perkins boss John Carter said: “We have delivered strong sales growth in the first quarter of the year, which reflects both our focus on excellent customer service and the weak comparator in 2018.

“This performance is all the more encouraging given the impact of the on-going political uncertainty on our end markets.”

Matthew Walton, senior retail analyst at market research firm GlobalData, said that Wickes had fully recovered from a dire year in 2018, pointing to a 1.3% growth in two-year like-for-like sales, which he called “an impressive feat” considering the downturn in consumer confidence.

“While Wickes continued to benefit from B&Q ceasing its HomeFit installation offer, improved execution also supported this growth, with a new format which better showcases kitchens being introduced into over half of its stores.

“The competition in kitchen remains intense, however, with Howdens sales up in the first four months of 2019, Magnet’s refreshed offer continuing to gain traction with shoppers and Ikea launching its second central ‘planning studio’ in March.

“With Wren and the online bathroom specialists also continuing to outperform, Wickes must continue to invest to encourage still cautious customers to spend,” he added.

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