Builders merchant Travis Perkins yesterday said weak consumer spending was continuing to restrain sales at its Wickes arm despite a recent pick-up in the housing market.

Like-for-like sales at Wickes, which was acquired in February last year, were 9.4 per cent lower in the 16 weeks to April 22, although Travis insisted business had started to improve.

Easter trading was satisfactory and chairman Tim Stevenson said fresh activity in the housing market suggested conditions in the DIY market would get better from July.

He said: "Trading at Wickes is recovering slowly from the difficult market conditions experienced at the beginning of the year with the pace of recovery still being impacted by weak consumer spending."

The addition of Wickes brought 171 new stores into the Travis portfolio and Travis Perkins currently has an overall estate of 994 locations.

As a result, group turnover to the end of April was expected to be nine per cent higher than a year ago.