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Kingfisher swoops for Focus stores

The owner of B&Q has bought 31 stores from stricken chain Focus DIY for £23 million after the company fell into administration.

Kingfisher, which also owns the Screw Fix brand, said it plans to refit the vacant properties and open them as new B&Q stores later in the year.

Ernst & Young, which has been appointed as administrator to Focus DIY, said the remaining 144 stores will continue to trade as normal.

The stores will continue to run as Focus DIY until July, when they will be shut down and conversions will begin. Administrators are still looking for a buyer for the remaining stores.

Kingfisher said the purchased stores have 700 staff in total who will not be transferred to the new B&Q stores but are welcome to apply for positions.

It said the acquisition would speed up previously-announced plans to expand its 850-store B&Q chain.

Kingfisher chief executive Ian Cheshire said: “This is a good opportunity for us to accelerate our previously-announced plans to expand B&Q into carefully-targeted UK locations where we currently have no store representation.

“This will bring better choice and lower prices to customers and provide secure jobs and career prospects in these local communities.”

Focus DIY has been hit by low consumer confidence and a weak housing market, which has placed considerable pressure on sales and margins.

The chain, which employs 3,920 staff, has struggled in recent years against tough competition from B&Q and Wickes.

Its management had tried to control costs and restructure the business but was unable to avoid a collapse and called in administrators last week.

Simon Allport, joint administrator at Ernst & Young, said the Kingfisher deal represented an “exceptional outcome” for creditors of Focus DIY.