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Wickes set to go it alone after strong first-half performance across sales channels

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Wickes is set to become a standalone company in the first half of next year, as part of parent company Travis Perkins’ plans to simplify its group – and after it turned in a strong financial performance.  Travis Perkins said in its first-half figures this week that the move will give Wickes the autonomy to run its own strategy and will bring fresh focus to investing in its customer proposition and growth opportunities. 

Wickes is currently part of Travis Perkins’ retail division along with sister company Tile Giant. In the first half of the year that division posted revenues of £695m in the six months to June 30, up by 8.9% on the same time last year in total, and by 9.7% on a like-for-like basis that strips out store – and business – openings and closures. Adjusted operating profit came in at £52m, up by 48.6% on the same time last year. 

Overall, parent company Travis Perkins reported first-half revenues of £2.8bn, up by 6.9% on the same time last year. Pre-tax profits came in at £12m from a loss of £148m last time.

Wickes puts in a strong cross-channel performance

Wickes’ revenues recovered strongly in the first half, after a difficult comparative period in the first half of 2018. Travis Perkins put around 2% of the retail division’s 9.7% like-for-like sales growth down to milder weather in March and April of this year, compared to last.

Wickes continued to develop its digital and customer service channels during the first-half. Store assistants can now sell the full online range to shoppers in store, either for in-store collection or home delivery, with the effect that staff can provide a full-project service to customers while limiting the number of lines held in store. In-store availability has also improved with improved stock accuracy and forecasting.

Wickes’ kitchen and bathroom deliveries were particularly strong through the half, while new ranges and a strong trading plan helped it to boost DIY sales.

The DIY specialist is a Leading retailer in IRUK Top500 research, while sister company Toolstation is a Top150 trader.

Toolstation sees the benefit of website investment and store expansion

Toolstation reported first-half revenues of £208m. That was up by 23.1% compared to same time last year in total, and by 17.3% on a like-for-like basis that strips out the effect of store and business openings and closures. During the half-year the launch of a new Toolstation website resulted in higher click and collect transactions and high conversion rates. Toolstation’s online range was extended with the addition of 1,500 largely trade-focused brands, and it opened 21 UK branches and 13 in Europe. In total, it expects to open 60 new UK branches during the course of its 2019 full year.

Travis Perkins chief executive John Carter said the company was making good progress with its strategy to focus on its trade businesses and to simplify the group. “This strategic progress has been underpinned by a strong trading period in the first half of 2019, albeit against softer trading conditions in H1 2018.”

He added: “Toolstation continues to deliver excellent growth through proposition improvements and network expansion. Wickes has delivered a strong turnaround in volume and profit performance, with gains in both core DIY and through the kitchen and bathroom showroom.

“Whilst our underlying markets remain subdued, the self-help initiatives underway are supporting an encouraging improvement in performance and provide a strong platform to drive sustainable growth ahead of our markets in the medium term. Despite a cautious outlook for the near-term the group remains confident in making progress across the year as a whole.”

Image courtesy of Wickes

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