Kingfisher, the third largest home-improvement retailer the world over and B&Q owner, has said that weaker confidence among consumers in the UK, Ireland and France and extremely cold weather in March pulled down group-wide profits by almost 30% in the first three months of 2013.
The group's first-quarter sales were down 4.2% while retail profits were below expectations, dropping 29.2% to £114m (€133m / $178m ). Like-for-like sales in the first week of April too fell in excess of 15%.
Kingfisher hopes to attract more shoppers in the summer. The group's stock was trading 0.07% lower at 11:06 a.m. in London, while the benchmark FTSE 100 was trading 0.09% higher.
"Market conditions have remained challenging in the first quarter compounded by the effects of an early Easter and unseasonably cold weather across Europe. As a result, general footfall was down and demand for outdoor maintenance, gardening and leisure products was adversely affected for a second year running. These impacts were particularly acute in March which resulted in that month accounting for the vast majority of the quarter's profit decline.
"However, our performance towards the end of the quarter was encouraging following a return to more normal weather patterns," group chief executive Ian Cheshire was quoted as saying in a Kingfisher statement.
Home-improvement rival Homebase and leading tile and wooden flooring retailer Topps Tiles too reported a sluggish demand for their products.
"Looking ahead, we still have our key summer season to come and we are ready to capitalise on any improvement in conditions during this peak trading period. We will continue to focus hard on our margin and cost initiatives helping us to reinforce our value credentials with customers during these challenging times," Cheshire said.
B&Q's sales in the UK & Ireland dropped 5.7% to £913m. Sales of outdoor seasonal products, which add up to about a third of all Q1 sales, were down over 10%. Sales of building products were also impacted by bad weather, the company said.
In the showroom category, bathroom sales were down, in a weak, price-aggressive market. But kitchen sales delivered a solid performance. Sales of indoor decorative products fared better with customers staying indoors because of the cold weather.
Kingfisher's top retail brands are B&Q, Castorama, Brico Depot and Screwfix. It also operates the Koçtaş brand, a 50% joint venture in Turkey with the Koç Group, and has a 21% interest in Hornbach, Germany"s top large format do-it-yourself retailer.