Regardless of the impact of poor weather, the ‘Beast from the East‘ and having fewer trading days thanks to an Early Easter, Travis Perkins (TP) delivered a solid Q1.
Like-for-like sales growth reached 3.0%, with total sales growth of 2.4%. TP saw a particularly strong performance in Plumbing & Heating (like-for-like sales growth of 19.7%) and trading in General Merchanting remained resilient in light of weather impacts.
Weather conditions caused considerable disruption across the UK in February and March, and adversely affected sales across the Group. Heavyside material sales in particular were impacted across the General Merchanting and Contracts divisions as well as outdoor product categories in Wickes, with an overall Group sales impact estimated at 1.5-2.0% of like-for-like sales growth. This was partially offset by a modest boost to Plumbing & Heating sales.
Excluding impacts from the adverse weather, General Merchanting like-for-like sales were positive, in line with expectations, and reflected good recovery of cost price inflation, TP said.
“We delivered solid like-for-like sales growth in the first quarter, with volumes across the Group broadly flat and pricing initiatives to recover on-going commodity driven price inflation,” said Chief Exec John Carter. “Adverse weather conditions have impacted sales across the Group in February and March, but our overall expectations for 2018 remain unchanged and are supported by our actions to reduce costs. Whilst the mixed trading conditions in our markets are expected to continue in the near-term, we remain confident in the longer term outlook for the building materials market, with opportunities to grow and outperform through the investments we are making to develop or extend our strong customer propositions.”
“Weaknesses in the UK DIY market”
Like-for-like sales in the Consumer division reduced by 4.6%, reflecting the poor weather conditions and what TP said was weakness in the UK DIY market. Pricing activity across the Group in the first quarter primarily reflected the recovery of commodity-related inflation, particularly steel, copper and plastics.
In the Consumer division, Wickes suffered from a declining UK DIY market reflecting weak consumer sentiment, although Kitchen & Bathroom showroom orders recovered relative to Q4 2017, broadly in line with Q1 2017. The transformation programme in the Plumbing & Heating division has continued at pace, with the benefits of improvements to the customer proposition delivering good growth in all channels; through the branch network, online and through the wholesale business.
In the Merchanting divisions, there was one fewer trading day in Q1 2018 than in Q1 2017. In the consumer division, the Q1 period ended on 31 March 2018, with two days of the Easter trading weekend included in the Q1 result. These two days contributed approximately an additional 1.4ppt to like-for-like sales growth in the Consumer division in the quarter.
TP’s statement included a nod to mixed signals in market lead indicators, such as mortgage approvals, housing transactions, house prices and consumer confidence, producing continued pressure in consumer facing businesses across the UK. The Group is taking actions to reduce costs and improve efficiency, and ensuring that it retains the flexibility to take further actions if necessary. Assuming no further deterioration in market conditions, at this early stage of the year the Group is on track to meet its expectations for 2018.