Grafton Group revenue down 26% so far in 2020, Selco reopens branches

Building materials distributor and DIY retailer, Grafton Group, has revealed its group revenue in continuing operations dipped 26% to £810.9 million in the five months to 31 May 2020, from £1.09 billion in the same period last year.

The firm attributed the drop in revenue to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw national shutdown measures remain in place across the UK and Ireland throughout April.

The easing of trading restrictions in May permitted the majority of Group locations that were closed in March to either fully or partially reopen throughout the month, including Selco. Selco reopened an initial 42 branches on 6 May for click and collect and click and deliver services trading only, and opened the remaining 26 branches on 18 May.

Trading in the reopen branches was then extended to a full in-branch self-select service by the end of the month, with the remainder of the branch estate expected to be fully operational by 22 June.

According to the report, Selco was 'well-positioned' on reopening to support a higher proportion of orders and revenue through its online channel, following a major upgrade to its website in February.

Grafton's full UK distribution business traded at around half the prior year level in May on an 'improving trend' as the month progressed. Group revenue for May was down 38% on the previous year, however due to a high proportion of branches in the UK trading for only the latter part of the month, the Group deemed this a 'significant recovery' in activity.

In Ireland, half of the Chadwicks distribution branch network remained open during the lockdown for essential deliveries to support health and public sector projects, and provide emergency supplies to businesses and homes. The Woodie's DIY, Home and Garden business, which saw a downscale in operations at the end of March, reopened on 18 May, seeing revenue for the two weeks to the month-end comfortably exceed the level achieved for the full month of May 2019.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands distribution business was unaffected by the Covid-19 restrictions imposed by the Dutch Government as the construction sector was deemed an essential activity and permitted to continue operating.

Grafton's UK mortar manufacturing business traded at one-third of the prior year level in May with all plants reopening, except for one in Scotland where the lockdown continues.

Looking ahead, the Group expects to build on the progress achieved since reopening its businesses in the UK and Ireland, in the absence of a reintroduction of Covid-related measures to control the virus.

Financial guidance for the year ending 31 December will remain suspended, however, in light of the uncertainty over the impact of the virus on economic and construction activity generally.

In April, statistics analysed by BHETA revealed forecast growth in DIY and garden expenditure dropped 12.1%, from £11.4 billion in 2019 to £10 billion. Although, the online sales channel has grown faster than expected, with sector growth for the online channel reaching 16.2%, £0.1 billion more than expected prior to Covid-19.

Gavin Slark, CEO of Grafton Group, said: "I would like to thank our colleagues for their outstanding effort, commitment and success in seamlessly restarting our businesses with exceptional Covid-19 protocols in place to safeguard our customers and colleagues.

"The restrictions introduced to contain the spread of Covid-19 has a significant effect on trading since the second half of March and while there are many challenges to be overcome in the months ahead, we are encouraged by the early trading indications following the reopening of our businesses in the UK and Ireland.

"Grafton is in a strong financial position and, with a resilient portfolio of businesses, will emerge from this crisis well-positioned for future growth."