Builders merchant Travis Perkins saw turnover rise 6.5% in the 11 months to the end of November, an interim management statement said this morning.
The company said that sales improved in the last two months, although the bad weather in early December was likely to “have some impact on our sales trends and financial performance for the last month of the year.”
However, the figures may be boosted by builders and DIYers buying up stock to beat the January rise of VAT to 20%.
Geoff Cooper, chief executive, said there are signs that trade buyers are buying for stock ahead of the tax increase.
“If a builder is maybe fitting half a dozen kitchens, when they have storage capacity they can buy in advance,” he said.
“What we are seeing in our numbers is that people are coming in and buying more than they usually would at this time of year.”
Total turnover in its merchanting division rose 8.3% while like-for-like turnover per trading day was up 7.8%. Turnover per trading day for the last two months to November 30 jumped 10.5%.
Gross margins for the second half of the year to date are in line with the trend of the first six months, slightly below last year, said the company.
In Wickes, total turnover for the 47 week trading period to 27 November was up 2.7%. For this period like-for-like turnover per trading day was up 0.6%, with core products down by 2.1%, but kitchen and bathroom sales up 12.5 %. For the last eight weeks the total like-for-like turnover per day was up 4.2% with some evidence of buying ahead of the VAT increase. Gross margins for second half of the year to date are ahead of last year continuing the trend of the first six months.
Travis Perkins also expects to complete its £558m acquisition of BSS Group later today. When completed, the deal will create the country’s biggest plumbing and heating trade and retail distribution.
The company also said its underlying net debt, before the acquisition of BSS Group, fell in the fourth quarter from the £410m reported on June 30.