B&Q confirms Northern Ireland store closures - dozens of jobs could go
DIY giant B&Q has confirmed it will shut two of its Northern Ireland stores "by the end of the financial year" with the loss of dozens of jobs.
It comes as parent company Kingfisher saw its overall UK and Ireland sales rise by 5.5% in the 10 weeks to July 11, buoyed on by a busy early summer trade.
The confirmation of the closure of B&Q's Boucher Road store in Belfast and Buncrana Road outlet in Londonderry comes after the company announced in March it was slashing up to 60 stores across the UK and Ireland.
That makes up 15% of the firm's 360 stores and could impact as many as 3,000 workers.
The Belfast Telegraph had reported on fears over the future of the stores, but the company has now confirmed both will shut by early next year.
A B&Q spokesperson said: "Colleagues in our Londonderry and Boucher Road, Belfast, stores have been advised that their stores are included in the proposed store closures in this financial year."
But the company would not be drawn on exactly how many staff will be affected.
Kingfisher had said it expected to offset some of the B&Q jobs impact by opening a similar number of shops at sister business Screwfix and through redeployment.
Meanwhile, B&Q saw its total sales rise by 2.6% over the same period. But the firm would not break down like-for-like sales in Northern Ireland.
The retailer said it saw its highest sales of cooling products for five years amid the hot weather - which was mostly confined to the south of England - earlier this month, when temperatures hit a July record of up to 36.7C.
B&Q also reported a 44% surge in sales of sprinklers and an 11% hike for bedding plants in the 10 weeks to July 11.
The strong demand for cooling products and outdoor seasonal goods helped drive a bounce-back in trading across the chain in the UK and Ireland, which notched up a 3.4% rise in like-for-like sales in the group's second quarter.
This was a marked turnaround on the 1.1% fall in sales across B&Q in the previous three months.
B&Q owner Kingfisher added that another solid performance from its trade-focused building supplies chain Screwfix, where like-for-like sales leapt 16.7% higher, helped its overall UK and Ireland division to increase second quarter comparable sales by 5.5%.
Chief executive Veronique Laury, who took over from Sir Ian Cheshire in December, said: "We have delivered a solid second quarter sales performance to date across all our major businesses, albeit against softer comparatives than in the first quarter."
Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, said the latest sales figures suggest "rapid progress is being made" on recovery efforts.
He said: "The fact that each of the like for like numbers are showing gains could be an early vindication of the group's new strategy."
B&Q's other cutback plans include cutting back on some of the 393,000 products sold across the company. There has also been speculation the group might plan to phase out the B&Q brand name.