Wickes and Toolstation owner Travis Perkins this week reported rising sales and profits in its consumer-facing division in the first half of its financial year, in contrast to a fall in profits across the business.
Across the group, revenue reached £3.2bn in the six months to June 30, 3.5% up on the same time last year, while like-for-like sales, which strip out the effect of store openings and closures, were up by 2.7%. Pre-tax profits of £168m were down by 4.5% on last time. But in its consumer-facing Wickes and Toolstation businesses sales of £822m were 7.3% up on last time, while adjusted operating profits of £45m were also up, by 2.3%.
Chief executive John Carter said: "The robust growth and outperformance in our contracts and consumer divisions build on strong customer propositions and successful investments in those businesses.
"In the first half of the year, the group made a conscious decision to recover input cost inflation selectively through disciplined pricing activity. Whilst this had some impact on trading volume, it enabled us to maintain group gross margins and positions the business well for the future."
Here's what the builder's merchant group had to say about multichannel in its consumer-facing businesses.
Wickes, a Top100 retailer in IRUK Top500 research
, introduced same-day delivery with one-hour delivery slots as it worked to make its fulfilment more competitive. It said that extensions to the range were among its other efforts to improve the online proposition. In-store, the retailer has continued a refitting programme, with 82 new look stores now open. Kitchen and bathroom showrooms delivered "excellent growth".
Improvements to the digital customer experience were to the fore at Toolstation, a Top150 retailer. It reduced click and collect times, extended online only ranges and improved product reviews, local search and personalised offers. This work, it said, "drove a significant step up in sales growth". The retailer also enjoyed "industry-leading TrustPilot scores".
The retailer expanded in the UK, with 19 new stores opened in the half-year, and overseas, with 17 stores now open in the Netherlands. It saw strong web sales in France and Germany and launched a new website in Belgium.
The core Travis Perkins builder's merchant business also made progress with its multichannel strategy. It has a two-hour click and collect service and said that online were strong depite being "still at an early stage of development". A transactional website was also launched at its City Plumbing business, part of a transformation plan in Travis Perkins plumbing and heating division.