Wickes hails ‘bright’ outlook as young renters leading home improvement demand

March 23 (Reuters) – UK home improvement retailer Wickes (WIX.L) said on Thursday the outlook in its local market remains “bright”, buoyed by young renters spending more to spruce up their accommodation.

The outlook contrasts with other European and US home improvement retailers who have painted a dull picture for the sector amid elevated inflation and a cost-of-living crunch.

“People that don’t own their homes are actually improving the homes that they rent and live in, and we’re doing really well here as 18- to 35-year-olds are our fast growing cohort of customers,” CEO David Wood said in an interview with Reuters.

The company earlier reported a 3.5% rise last year in like-for-like revenue, which also remained almost 23% above pre-pandemic levels. Total revenue hit a record 1.56 billion pounds as it grew market share in its core businesses despite DIY sales normalizing from COVID-19 highs.

The company designs and installs kitchens, bathrooms and home offices, sells branded and own-label do-it-yourself products and runs a local network through which customers can hire tradesmen.

Against a backdrop of a slowing British housing market with fewer homes being built, Wickes said its exposure to new builds was limited and it was benefiting from home owners improving their existing homes.

Wood said he would also focus on building out Wickes’ local trade business in 2023 and on opening new stores and refitting old ones. The company plans to open 20 new stores in the next five years.

Despite an 11% year-on-year fall, 2022 profit also remained above pre-pandemic levels. Core sales in the first 11 weeks of 2023 were “moderately” behind the same period last year on lower demand for DIY.

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Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D’Souza, Kirsten Donovan

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