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Struggling DIY chain Wickes could be sold

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Builders’ merchant Travis Perkins is to explore the future sale of struggling DIY brand Wickes as it seeks to focus on its core business.

Wickes has been hit by tough competition and higher costs amid a “challenging” consumer market and falling sales.

Travis Perkins set out plans for the chain as it said it was simplifying the wider group’s structure and cutting costs as part of a strategy to focus on trade customers, which will initially see it divest its plumbing and heating division.

It said that in the short term it would seek to strengthen the performance of Wickes “capitalising on its clear competitive advantages in the DIY, small trade and kitchen and bathroom markets”.

The company added: “As it is a predominantly consumer-focused business, the board will also look to review the options for maximising the value of Wickes in the medium term.”

It is understood that one of these options could be a sale.

Travis Perkins chief executive John Carter said: “We have developed a clear plan to focus on delivering best-in-class service to our trade customers, and to simplify the Group to reduce complexity, speed up decision making and reduce costs.

“Our trade businesses hold strong positions in attractive markets, and these initiatives will enable us to concentrate our management time and capital in the highest returning areas.”

The company set out the plans after concluding a “comprehensive review” launched in July.

It said its overall performance was consistent with expectations set out at the time of its trading update in October for the three months to the end of September.

At that time, the company reported a 4.2% fall in like-for-like sales for its consumer division and said the UK DIY market remained “challenging”, with Wickes seeing declines both in its core DIY and kitchen and bathroom categories.

There had also been “significant pricing competition” across the sector.

Travis Perkins bought Wickes in a £950m deal 14 years ago.

The DIY chain has its origins in a US home improvement chain which first opened a UK store in 1972. It now operates at more than 240 sites across the UK

Rival DIY chains have also been struggling with B&Q last month reporting a 2.9% fall in like-for-like sales for the quarter to the end of October.

Meanwhile, Homebase has been axing dozens of stores after being sold earlier this year for £1 by Australian group Wesfarmers to a new owner, Hilco Capital.

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