Home improvement retailer posts flat sales; acquires Solar Fast

Home improvement retailer Wickes has reported flat sales as the business continued to invest in low-cost stores.

According to its full year trading update, adjusted revenue for the 52 weeks to 30 December 2023 was £1,553.8m (2022: £1,559.0m), a decrease of 0.3% on the prior year. Net selling area was flat year on year as new store openings in Chelmsford, Widnes and Torquay were offset with closures of some older stores. Full year LFL sales were -0.3%.

Wickes said that sales performance was strongest in the interior paint, decorative accessories and flooring categories, while the Wickes Lifestyle Kitchens range also had a strong sales contribution following its relaunch during the year.

Adjusted profit before tax for the full year was £52.0m (2022: £75.4m), a decline of 31.0% year-on-year.

“In 2023, we have taken a number of actions to respond to more challenging market conditions such as investing in new ranges for customers looking to undertake small home refreshes, including our paint range, curtain poles and shelving,” Wickes said.

“We have also seen a step change in sales of our relaunched Wickes Lifestyle Kitchens range, which appeals particularly to customers with a lower budget. This range now includes a free design service which has proven popular with both landlords and homeowners.

“We have continued to invest in our low-cost, right-sized stores. We refitted another 11 stores in 2023, showcasing our full offer of kitchens and bathrooms, and taking the proportion of stores in the new format to 77%. We continue to see strong returns and sales uplifts in our refitted stores.”

Wickes opened three new stores in 2023, in Chelmsford, Widnes and Torquay, and is ‘pleased’ with the initial performance of the new store opening programme. Wickes also closed four stores (Wigan, Loughborough, Paignton K&B and Darlington) which were not meeting its returns criteria, therefore ended the year with 229 stores.

David Wood, Chief Executive of Wickes, commented: “This has been another year of strong progress for Wickes. Our robust trading performance, targeted investment programme and disciplined cost control have delivered profits ahead of expectations.

“In the current economic environment, our unrivalled focus on providing great value and service has underpinned this performance. With this, I would like to thank each of my colleagues for their continued dedication and support, enabling us to achieve record customer satisfaction.

“I am also delighted to announce our acquisition of Solar Fast, which gives Wickes a majority stake in a leading operator in the emerging and exciting market for energy saving solutions. This acquisition enables us to rapidly accelerate our Design & Installation growth lever, capitalising on our expertise in installing major home improvement projects.”

Furthermore, Wickes has announced that it has agreed to acquire 51% of the issued share capital of Gas Fast Limited, the parent company of leading solar installations company Solar Fast.  The Business focuses on solar panels installations, alongside a smaller business installing gas boilers.

The acquisition will enable Wickes to expand its offering into the fast-growing market for home energy solutions, initially with solar and gas boilers and, in time, air source heat pumps and other services. The UK market for domestic solar installations is highly fragmented and is expected to expand significantly from an estimated £1.1bn in 2024 to £1.5bn in 20281 as homeowners and landlords retrofit their properties in order to save energy costs and reduce their environmental impact.

With its heritage as a trusted partner for major home improvement projects and installations, Wickes believes that it is well placed to take a leading share of this growing market and the Solar Fast acquisition enables it to expand its range of Design & Installation services.

David Wood, Chief Executive of Wickes, commented: “I am delighted to announce our acquisition of a majority stake in Solar Fast, a leading operator in the emerging and exciting market for energy saving solutions. This acquisition enables us to accelerate our Design & Installation growth lever, capitalising on our expertise in installing major home improvement projects.

“The Wickes brand has been trusted by home improvers for over 50 years and with Solar Fast as part of our proposition we will be perfectly placed to support them with their energy saving plans. I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome David Draper and his impressive team to the Wickes family and we look forward to delivering our exciting plans together.”

David Draper, Founder and CEO of Solar Fast, commented: “This is tremendous news for Solar Fast. We’re a family business and our vision has always been to become the number one provider in the UK for quality domestic solar installations and with the Wickes brand behind us, we are closer to achieving that vision.  I, along with all of the Solar Fast team, are very much looking forward to being part of the Wickes family and to working together to make UK homeowners more energy independent.”

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