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Kingfisher reviewing plant side of B&Q business

Poor trading results for first half of the year prompt B&Q owner to review plant business and explore head office job cuts.

Kingfisher, the owner of DIY/garden centre chain B&Q, is planning a review of the plants side of the business as hundreds of head office redundancies are expected after poor first half results.

Kingfisher pre-tax profit fell 15 per cent to £371m, with plants down 20 per cent and seasonal products overall down £30m for six months to 28 July in a spring and summer of record rainfall.

Chief executive Ian Cheshire said: "It leads us to think about the weather sensitivity of the business - should we shift the model away from weather-driven categories?

"B&Q starts from a position of being the number one garden centre by volume. It's a footfall driver. Our challenge is to adjust the mix so it's less susceptible."

B&Q had to discard millions of pounds worth of reserves that it did not take this year. Kingfisher saw pre-tax profit fall from £438m to £364m for the first six months of the year. Total sales fell from £5.6bn to £5.4bn. B&Q profits slid 24 per cent to £125m.

B&Q is to consult its 1,200 staff at its Southampton headquarters about redundancies. Horticulture category managers are believed to be reapplying for their jobs. A B&Q representative said: "Back in June, we announced a realignment of board responsibilities and that there would be a realignment of roles behind that. This process is ongoing."

Garden writer Peter Seabrook said: "Whenever big multiple retailers go heavily into bedding they have to be prepared for losses."

WD Smith director Mike Smith said when he supplied the multiples with bedding they typically overestimated what they required by 20 per cent, leaving growers with stock they had to dump on the market.

"We grew 20 per cent less than they suggested so as not to have wastage. B&Q has to sound like it is making these noises to its shareholders and is going to have to be more cautious on pre-orders."

He added: "But sales at the moment for us are slightly better than I'd imagine for this time of year so there is still a market out there when the weather is good, so if they're not careful B&Q might not have enough for next year."

Homebase's like-for-like sales fell 3.7 per cent in the second quarter of 2012, with sales down 3.9 per cent to £366m.

The group said seasonal sales were impacted by poor weather and market conditions continued to be challenging. Sales in other categories were "broadly flat". Results were helped by increased seasonal stock clearance.

Terry Duddy, chief executive at Homebase owner Home Retail Group, said: "Seasonal product sales continued to be adversely impacted by the poor weather conditions. While we continue to plan cautiously, we approach our peak trading period in good operational shape."

Source : Matthew Appleby – Horticulture Week

28 September 2012
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