NORTHAMPTON: Travis Perkins, the national builders' merchant, has issued its trading results for the year ending 31 December 2009. While maintaining strong control over capital expenditure, TP said it had still managed to expand its branch network, although at a much slower rate.

"Recent trading trends have confirmed our view that the merchanting market has stabilised, and the retail market has continued to enjoy a steady revival in activity," said the company.

Group turnover for the 11 months to the end of November 2009 was down 8.5% compared to the equivalent period in 2008.

In TP's merchanting division, total turnover for the 11 months was down by 13.3%. "While like-for-like turnover for each trading day for this period was down by 14.3%, the decrease in like-for-like sales for the last two months has improved to 5.5%, as 2008 comparatives continue to ease," the company pointed out.

The decline in volume relative to peak levels in early 2008 appears to have reached a plateau, but the national merchants admitted that it had yet to see any signs of any sustained improvement.

Gross margin pressure has remained consistent with the trend experienced throughout 2009.

The company added five merchanting branches, two Wickes stores, seven Tile Giant stores and, through its associate company, 26 ToolStation stores during 2009.

These sales trends mean that Group trading for the last two months since TP's October interim management statement is a little ahead of expectations. This, together with further one-off employment related savings, means that the merchant expected earnings to be at the upper end of market expectations for 2009.