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Wickes sales fall in ‘extremely challenging’ year for UK DIY, but Toolstation grows fast as convenience improves across channels

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Wickes has reported falling sales after an “extremely challenging” year in a discount-driven UK DIY market, but its sister company Toolstation UK, which sells to trade customers, enjoyed more buoyant growth.

Travis Perkins reported revenues of £6.7bn in the year to December 31, up by 4.8% on the previous year. Pre-tax losses of £49.4m were down from profits of £289.7m last time. Revenues at the Travis Perkins consumer business, which includes Wickes (ranked Leading in IRUK Top500 research) and Toolstation (Top150), rose by 0.9% to £1.6bn, although like-for-like sales, which strip out the effect of store – and business – openings and closures, were down by 1.3%. Adjusted operating profits of £69m were 15.9% down on the £82m reported a year earlier.

Wickes: DIY sales hit as consumer confidence dips

Wickes revenues were down by 2.5% in total, and by 4.4% on a like-for-like (LFL) basis, over the year.

The retailer’s parent company Travis Perkins said in full-year results that declining consumer confidence and growing competitor discounting had both hit its sales. The hardest hit category was kitchens and bathroom showroom sales, where delivered sales were 10% down in the first half. However, sales performance improved in the second half as Wickes cut its prices in a number of core DIY categories and as competitors stopped designing and installing kitchens and bathrooms for the end customer. Over the year, the number of Wickes kitchens sold with a full installation services was 54% up on 2017. 

The Wickes TradePro loyalty scheme, said the retailer, had succeeded in improving customer loyalty through a flat 10% discount on all purchases. In 2019 trade customers will start to be able to enjoy that discount when they shop online. 

Toolstation benefits as online convenience improves

Sales at Toolstation UK were 18% up in total and by 11.4% LFL as the retailer expanded both its store network and its range, making itself more available to its trade customers.  Forty new stores and a new distribution centre – capable of supporting network expansion up to more than 500 stores – opened in the first half, while its range grew by 4,000 product lines, including 58 trade brands.

Convenience also increased online, with more products available for next-day delivery or by drop ship, especially in the bathroom, garden sheds and radiator categories. Deliveries were extended to six days a week. Multichannel transactions grew by more than 30%, and click and collect grew strongly. The new Wickes’ website saw conversion rates grow by more than 1%. 

International expansion continued. The retailer now has 32 stores in the Netherlands, following 12 new openings, and eight in France, five opened in the last year. Toolstation said its Belgian website was developing well. Trial stores will be added in that market during this year, serviced from the Dutch distribution centre. 

Image courtesy of Wickes

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