B&Q and Screwfix owner Kingfisher this week showed sales started to decline online and offline in the second quarter of its financial year, after Covid-19 restrictions were loosened in its markets. But ecommerce and sales across all channels are still running well ahead of pre-pandemic levels.
The retail group, which serves both DIYers and the trades from stores including B&Q, Screwfix in the UK and Castorama and Brico Dépôt in France, reported a first-half of two halves. Group like-for-like sales grew by 64.2% in the first quarter of the year, to April, when non-essential retail were mostly closed for lockdowns both in the UK and in some of Kingfisher’s European markets. During the quarter, UK sales grew by 65% on the previous year, while French sales were 101.7% ahead, and those in Spain and Portugal by 112.3%. Group ecommerce sales were 64.2% ahead in the first quarter compared to the same time last year.
But in the second quarter of the year so far, to July 10, sales growth has weakened year-on-year, and fallen back in markets including France (-8.9%). Overall, group LFL sales have fallen by 1.3% on last year in the quarter so far, and ecommerce sales are 6.1% down. The fall back comes at a time when in the second quarter, Covid-19 restrictions have loosened around retail, with most shops now able to trade normally. Comparisons are also with a second quarter of last year when shops were mostly closed in the first lockdown, having reopened in mid-June 2020.
In comparison to pre-pandemic sales, two years ago, sales across channels were 22.5% up in the first quarter, with ecommerce sales 257.5% ahead. Sales in the second quarter so far are 22.3% ahead of two years ago, with online sales 188.2% ahead. Kingfisher says that demand continues to be high from both new and existing retail and trade customers.
The company now expects first-half sales and profits to beat previous guidance, with sales coming in around 22% higher than the same period last year, while first-half adjusted pre-tax profits are expected to come in at between £645m and £660m, well ahead of previous expectations of between £580m and £600m.
Thierry Garnier, Kingfisher Group chief executive, says: “Kingfisher’s performance in the second quarter to date has been ahead of expectations, with positive progress against our strategic priorities continuing to drive share growth in our key markets. With very strong comparatives from the previous year, we are pleased to see growth being delivered on a 2-year basis across all categories and channels, with ecommerce sales in particular nearly three times higher than the same period in 2019.
"I am grateful to all our colleagues for their continuous hard work and customer service, enabling our banners to trade safely and to remain well stocked despite the industry-wide supply chain challenges.
"With the strong performance in the quarter to date, we now anticipate first half sales and adjusted pre-tax profit to be ahead of our previous expectations. We continue to be encouraged by the supportive long-term trends for our industry and are confident of continued outperformance of our wider markets.”