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Kingfisher, the owner of DIY retailer B&Q, has reported a sharp rise in full-year sales and profits, boosted by a new generation of “young DIY-ers”. The company said underlying pre-tax profit jumped 44% while sales climbed to £12.3bn in the year to 31 January.

Kingfisher boss Thierry Garnier said that the Covid-crisis had led to 18-34 year-olds doing more home improvements than any other age group. “All of this is very encouraging for the future of our industry,” he said.

Kingfisher, which also owns the builders’ merchant Screwfix, added that 20% of young “DIY-ers” had tried home improvement for the first time during lockdown. The company surveyed customers last year and again in February.

The company also said home-working had helped lift sales and profits, as people invested in making their houses more comfortable. It expects people to continue working from home once Covid restrictions are lifted.

Kingfisher said this would result in “‘wear and tear’ on the home, and the need to organise living space differently, thereby creating further demand for home improvement”. Underlying pre-tax profit for the year rose to £786m from £544m in the previous 12 months. Total sales rose by 7.2%.

Like-for-like sales, which strips out revenue from stores opened during the year, rose by 7.1% over the year with the strongest growth in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Under government guidelines, hardware stores are considered essential retailers. B&Q was closed during the first few weeks of lockdown a year ago before gradually reopening.

Kingfisher said the pandemic had accelerated growth in online sales. E-commerce sales accounted for 18% of total sales compared to 8% in the year before. Mr Garnier said the company was also restructuring its shops in the UK and Ireland and is looking at introducing smaller B&Q Express stores in urban areas and retail parks. It is “right-sizing” a small number of its bigger stores and investigating using excess space solely to fulfil online orders.

It is also launching two more B&Q shops with Asda stores this week, adding to the two it has already opened within the supermarket. Kingfisher said it had made a strong start to its current financial year with group like-for-like sales up more than 24% between February and 18 March. It said there had been particular demand for plants and vegetable seeds, compost and pressure washers.

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