Builders' merchant Travis Perkins says overall turnover will increase despite poor performance of retail arm Wickes.

Builders' merchant Travis Perkins has predicted a strong second half to 2006, despite poor figures for its retail arm Wickes.

In a trading update at today's AGM, Travis Perkins chairman Tim Stevenson will say that turnover in its merchanting division for the first four months of 2006 will be up by 2.8% year on year, but sales at Wickes were down 6.1%.

Stevenson will say: "Our business continues to make progress in markets that, although improved on conditions seen at the end of 2005, are recovering only slowly."

Total group turnover to the end of April is expected to be up by 9% compared to the equivalent periods in 2005.

He will say that trading at Wickes is recovering slowly from difficult market conditions at the beginning of the year and that the pace of recovery is still being impacted by weak consumer spending.

Since the end of 2005, Travis Perkins has added nine new branches to its merchanting network and two new Wickes stores, taking the total number of outlets to 994.

Stevenson will add: "As we indicated in March, we continue to expect challenging trading conditions for the remainder of the first half of the year."

"Lead indicators, particularly from the housing market, continue to suggest activity levels in our markets will improve gradually in the second half: in that context we currently expect that our second half performance will be stronger than the comparative period in 2005."