Weather fails to damp Marshalls

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Marshalls, the landscaping products company, managed a modest increase in annual profits in spite of wet summer weather and damped consumer confidence.

“The year began and ended strongly, we just had a lot of rainfall in the key summer months,” said Graham Holden, chief executive.

Spending on government and commercial projects, which included providing the paving for the new 02 arena approach, was up 7 per cent last year.

That market is expected to keep growing, with the Olympic Games, in particular, likely to boost sales as soon as the end of 2008.

The residential trade, which represents just under half of Marshalls’ business, was “slightly ahead” of 2006, with lower volumes partly offset by higher prices.

The outlook for the residential business was “basically flat” due to lower spending on improved driveways and patios, as a result of a slowing economy.

“Eighty per cent of the projects we supply are carried out by professionals, as opposed to DIY enthusiasts. We think those are consumers in higher income groups, who won’t be affected so much by the economy,” Mr Holden said.

Chris Millington, at Numis Securities, said the results met expectations. “It’s quite an achievement to achieve positive like-for-like sales in their retail business.

“We’d be happy with a small level of growth in 2008 and 2009.”

Pre-tax profits edged up 1 per cent to £42.1m (£41.7m) on sales of £402.9m (£378.1m). The proposed final dividend of 9.3p brings the total to 13.85p (12.7p), on earnings per share of 21.28p (20.34p).

The shares dropped 14½p to 249¾p.

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