In fact, le division Francais (as we imagine it’s referred to chez Kingfisher), saw sales rise by 2.9%, to nearly £1.2bn. And while sales in the UK still rose, they couldn’t quite keep up: they went up by 1.2%, hitting just over £1bn. That meant its international division was Kingfisher’s fastest-growing arm: it grew by 9.5% to £559m pushing overall retail profit up by 13.1%, to £273m. Kingfisher added that the third quarter is usually ‘its most significant trading period’ of the year – presumably because consumers want to get their houses in order (as it were) before Christmas.
All of this throws the plight of Focus DIY into sharp relief. Kingfisher bought 27 of Focus’ 29 defunct stores when it entered administration back in May, which the firm says are now ‘trading well’. What’s more, in September, it said it was planning to create 1,200 new jobs in the UK, with as many as 40 new Screwfix stores.
To be fair to Focus, its main problem was that, having lain unloved at the bottom of its private equity owners’ toybox, it piled up debts faster than Handy Andy could knock up a set of MDF shelves. When debt specialist Cerberus then bought it for £1 in 2007, it was probably too late. Which just goes to show how vital good management (not to mention a bit of TLC) is, particularly when a downturn bites.