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DIY and garden retailers braced for cold Easter weekend

DIY and garden retailers are bracing themselves for an Easter weekend sales freeze during the most important time of the year for home improvement categories, as wintry conditions continue to undermine performance.

It will be the second consecutive miserable Easter weekend that DIY retailers have had to endure, after a blustery holiday last year was followed by a month of rain, resulting in the wettest April for 100 years.

Ian Cheshire, group chief executive of B&Q owner Kingfisher, which suffered a £25m hit to retail profit in the UK due to last year’s bad weather, said he expected the DIY giant to “see a slow start” to this year because of the unseasonably cold conditions.

“We need [the weather] to shift,” he said, adding that sales over Easter weekend are usually double that of a normal weekend.

Homebase managing director Paul Loft said Easter “will be poor” and that gardening sales will be “way down”.

Loft added: “If April was bad you’ll start to lose spend that won’t return. Then you’d start to get into difficulties. Margins will be hit a bit.”

Another director of a large DIY retailer said if the poor weather persists beyond Easter, there is a danger that spend will be lost completely which would have a material impact on sales and profits. He said: “Any DIY or home related business has a serious call to be concerned. If the cold spell is persistent, that’s your peak gone.”

Retailers with a stronger emphasis on gardening, such as Homebase and Dobbies, are likely to be hardest hit, although those with a DIY bias will also suffer as customers often carry out large expensive projects over Easter.

Conlumino managing director Neil Saunders said: “The dismal weather over Easter will prove to be yet another blow for the DIY sector. Activity in the garden will be limited and fewer people will undertake outside DIY tasks. Both will drive down overall spend. There will still be a mini-boom, however, as consumers look to do things inside the home.”

However Dobbies chief executive James Barnes maintained: “It’s still early, so there will be plenty of time to have a successful spring season ahead.”

Cheshire remained confident that any spend lost this weekend would only be deferred. “The pent up demand is there,” he said.

Loft added: “A lot of money will be deferred into April if conditions improve.”

Homebase has deferred bedding plants for a few weeks due to flexibility in its supply chain and will also be airing indoor-focused ads this weekend promoting items such as paint, rather than the garden-focused ads that would usually air at this time of year.

Loft said stock levels were “fine”.

Source : Nicola Harrison – Retail Week

28 March 2013
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