SALES at Hampshire-based B&Q plunged by more than a fifth in three months.

Sales in the UK and Ireland fell by 21.8 per cent in the quarter that ended on April 30, parent company Kingfisher said.

But it added that sales had risen 18.9 per cent in the first week of May after the Chandlers Ford-based DIY giant reopened its stores.

Sales across the wider Kingfisher group – including its Castorama and Brico Depot chains in France – were also badly hit by lockdowns in place across Europe, with total sales down by a quarter in the three months to April 30.

Kingfisher said 288 of its 289 B&Q stores are now open in the UK and Ireland, while its 683-strong Screwfix arm is operating on a click-and-collect basis only.

Kingfisher chief executive Thierry Garnier said: “Having initially closed our stores in France and the UK, we have rapidly adapted how we operate to meet the essential needs of our customers safely during lockdown.

“We started by transforming our operations to meet a material increase in online transactions through our click-and-collect and home delivery services.

“We reconfigured our retail space and processes, allowing a phased and safe reopening of stores whilst preserving the social distancing and other health and safety protocols that are likely to be with us for some time.”