DIY group Kingfisher sees sales turn positive as lockdowns ease

LONDON (Reuters) – Home improvement group Kingfisher (KGF.L) said underlying sales turned positive in the first week of May as more of its stores re-opened from coronavirus lockdowns, giving it more confidence for the future.

Kingfisher, which owns B&Q in Britain and Castorama in France, said that like-for-like sales in the first week of May grew 2.7%, a turnaround compared to the three months to the end of April when they dropped 24.8% after many shops shut.

The group said there had been a phased re-opening of its UK and French stores in the second half of April and now 631 of its total 1,370 stores across Europe were open, and most of those not open to the public were offering click and collect.

Management’s focus during lockdown had been to reduce costs and protect cash, said chief executive Thierry Garnier, and by May 8, with help from a French government facility, it had access to liquidity of 2 billion pounds.

“Our current cash balance provides us with sufficient financial headroom based on assumptions of a prolonged period of reduced sales,” Garnier said in a statement on Tuesday.

The board and executive team had taken pay cuts of 20% during the crisis, the group said, adding that there were active talks with landlords about payments.

Kingfisher’s stores as well as its distribution and fulfilment centres were now operating safely with social distancing measures in place, the group said.

Reporting by Sarah Young, editing by James Davey and Kate Holton

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