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B&Q owner Kingfisher reports omnichannel progress

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The Kingfisher Group today said its omnichannel plans for growth were progressing well both at home and abroad, helping it to boost sales and profits in the first half of its financial year. In particular, Screwfix sales rose by 14.6% to £313m thanks to expansion and last year’s introduction of mobile pay, click and collect.

The owner of B&Q and Screwfix earlier this year launched its “self-help” Creating the Leader programme, which aims to enable customers to adapt their homes to their changing lifestyles, through both advice and new shopping channels. It said today that its ongoing self-help initiatives were “supporting short-term performance in challenging markets.”

Omnichannel progress in the first half included some 20,000 new products for home delivery added to the B&Q website, using Screwfix omnichannel infrastructure, while navigation and search functionality was improved on its website. The international group has also launched a click and collect pilot at Castorama France, and upgraded websites for its Turkish business and for Brico Dépôt France. The Screwfix website now operates in 20 European countries and Kingfisher is to trial the brand in Germany, through four outlets that are set to open next summer.

The group is aiming for further progress in the second half of the year, when it plans to launch click, pay and collect online on the B&Q website while also extending its TradePoint website. It also plans to “review potentail for further B&Q rightsizing opportunitities,” as it looks to match its store estate to the new reality of digital retail. Upgraded websites will be launched in Poland, Spain and China, while a pilot click and collect will be launched in Turkey.

The update came as Kingfisher reported a 4.3% rise in sales in the first half of its financial year, while pre-tax profits rose by 10.2% to £401m from £364m at the same time last year. But post-tax profits in the 26 weeks to August 3 were further boosted by a £145m credit following the resolution of a tax case in France related to its 2004 demerger of Kesa Electricals, boosting that figure by 69.9% to £440m from £259m last time.

B&Q’s UK and Ireland sales were down by 1.8% to £1.9bn, while Screwfix’ total sales rose by 14.6% to £313m. Kingfisher said the brand had benefitted from extended opening hours, 19 new outlets, taking the total to 294, and the launch of a mobile click, pay and collect last year.

B&Q’s sales in China, where it has 39 stores, were up by 9.5% to £194m, though it reported a loss of £7m, including £3m costs related to work on a new format store trial.

Group chief executive Ian Cheshire said better weather had helped it to lift profits in the second quarter of the first half: retail profit fell by 29.2% in the first quarter of the year and rose by 10.8% in the second. He also said the company’s Creating the Leader programme had progressed well.

“However,” he said, “underlying consumer confidence remains weak in our major markets so we continue to focus hard on our self-help initiatives to drive growth, margin and cost-efficiencies.

“Looking ahead, we remain ready to capitalise on any improvement in conditions or opportunities as they arise, including the potential pick-up in the UK housing market.”

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