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Woodies and Atlantic sales decline 16pc

SALES at Woodies and Atlantic Homecare collapsed 16pc in the first four months of this year, but parent Grafton still managed to push up group sales by 5.3pc to €676m.

Grafton, which generates about three-quarters of its €2bn in annual sales in the UK where it has a string of units including plumber and builder providers, said that a more favourable sterling-euro exchange rate had helped to flatter revenue growth. The inclusion of its share of sales from a Belgian joint venture also contributed to the increase.

In the UK, average daily like-for-like revenue at its merchanting business rose 1.7pc during the four-month period. Record rainfall levels in April dampened the division's performance last month, however. Grafton, which is headed by chief executive Gavin Slark, said overall market conditions in the UK remained stable, despite more broadly based economic weakness.

Turnover at the Irish merchanting business, which includes Chadwicks and Heiton Buckley, fell 9pc. The decline was fuelled by a further fall in spending in the housing repair, maintenance and improvement market.

But it was Grafton's Woodies and Atlantic Homecare stores that performed worst. The businesses have been under severe pressure since the downturn began. But the 16pc fall in revenue in the first four months of this year is particularly stark given that this time last year Grafton had reported the DIY stores had delivered 4.6pc revenue growth in the first four months of 2011.

However, the comparable period last year was significantly helped by a run of good spring weather then and poorer weather this year.

Shares in Grafton declined about 1pc yesterday to €3.17.

Irish Independent