Topps Tiles courts trade cus­tomers as DIY trend flags

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Char­lie Tay­lor-Kroll

TOPPS Tiles has hailed progress in its com­mer­cial arm as it looks to sell more prod­ucts to busi­nesses and trade cus­tomers to make up for re­tail shop­pers turn­ing their backs on DIY.

The re­tailer yes­ter­day re­ported a 1.4pc fall in its first-quar­ter like-for-like sales com­pared with the year be­fore, but said that it ex­pects its Park­side divi­sion to be­come prof­itable by 2020.

Park­side, which it bought in 2017, sup­plies busi­nesses such as restau­rants and hair sa­lons with tiles. It made a loss of £1.1m in the year to Sept 29. It ex­panded its sales team dur­ing the last year and plans to open two new show­rooms in the se­cond quar­ter.

Matthew Wil­liams, chief ex­ec­u­tive, said: “Tra­di­tion­ally we are in the re­tail mar­ket but we are ex­cited by the op­por­tu­nity of the com­mer­cial divi­sion.

“The divi­sion in­volves dif­fer­ent types of cus­tomers, dif­fer­ent ar­chi­tects and of­ten much larger-scale pro­jects.”

Topps is also ex­pand­ing its dig­i­tal ser­vices, in­clud­ing on­line “room vi­su­alis­ers” to en­tice cus­tomers to re­search prod­ucts be­fore com­ing into stores. “Peo­ple start their shop­ping jour­ney on­line, es­pe­cially at the re­search phase, but our stores are highly val­ued by our cus­tomers,” said Mr Wil­liams.

“What we are see­ing in store, as a re­sult, are more com­mit­ted cus­tomers.”

Mr Wil­liams said while con­di­tions “re­mained chal­leng­ing” due to weak con­sumer sen­ti­ment, it was “out­per­form­ing the mar­ket”. It opened one store and closed two in the first quar­ter, end­ing Dec 29, tak­ing its to­tal to 367.

The com­pany is some­times seen as a barom­e­ter for the econ­omy due to its ex­po­sure to the hous­ing mar­ket, of­fer­ing a yard­stick of con­sumers’ will­ing­ness to spend on big-ticket items.

Shares in Topps closed up 3.1pc at 65.7p yes­ter­day.

John Steven­son, of Peel Hunt, said: “Un­cer­tainty aside, Topps is out­per­form­ing in a tough tile mar­ket and the com­mer­cial divi­sion con­tin­ues to make strong progress. Topps re­mains the do­mes­tic tile mar­ket leader and con­tin­ues to win share [while] the ac­qui­si­tion of Park­side pro­vides an en­try point in the com­mer­cial mar­ket.”

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