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Merchant sees UK revenues slip

Builders’ merchant Wolseley has reported lower UK revenues and profits after a difficult quarter for its brands Bathstore and Plumb Center.

The group, which generates sales of more than £13 billion a year and is the world’s largest specialist distributor of plumbing and heating products, said UK profits fell by 10% to £28 million in the three months to April 30.

This included a £4 million rise in bad debt charges and followed “significantly” lower revenues at consumer-focused Bathstore, which is reportedly up for sale as Wolseley looks to focus on core trade operations.

Plumbing chain Plumb Center was also hit by the loss of a large parts supply contract as well as fewer boiler replacements.

Building trade supplier Build Center, which is also thought to be up for sale, improved its performance while the company’s drain, pipe and climate businesses all did well.

A good showing in the US and Northern Europe helped to lift Wolseley’s sales overall by 1% in the quarter to April to £3.27 billion, but UK revenues fell by 4% with like-for-like growth also falling sharply to just 1% from 8% in the previous three months.

Group trading profits for the quarter rose by 30% to £131 million as the US, Nordic and French operations all posted healthy gains.