Building supply company Grafton Group has reported pre-tax profits of £75.4m for the first half of the year, on the back of revenues of more than £1.3 billion. That represents a 16% rise in profits in the period and a 9% gain in revenues.
"The most pleasing thing for us is the fact that all parts of the group have actually contributed towards this first half story," Grafton's CEO Gavin Slark said. "Good performance in mainland Europe, good strong performance in the UK and the continuation of the good performance in the recovering market in Ireland."
Grafton has operations in Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium but the bulk of its revenues come from the UK market - which makes it heavily exposed to sterling. However Mr Slark said the company is not too focused on the issue, as there is little it can do about its impact.
"Obviously sterling has an impact on us but the way that the Brexit negotiations are going, really we can't influence what's happening on a political or macro economic scale," he said. "So we've just got to focus on running the business in the best way that we can. The UK is a large and mature economy, it's got an old housing stock, it's got an undersupply of housing anyway, so the basic fundamentals of the market in which we operate should remain strong through the medium to long term, even with a few speed bumps along the way."
Grafton's outlook anticipates the current softer trend in the UK market to continue into the rest of 2017 - though Mr Slark said that growth in the country has remained steady in recent years despite political and economic uncertainty.
Meanwhile in Ireland, the company's merchanting and retail businesses have enjoyed healthy growth so far this year - which the company puts down to improved economic data and a rise in consumer confidence. "One of the most encouraging things for us about Ireland is that the housing market appears to be recovering in a sensible way," he said. "It's about recovering in a gradual way rather than seeing sudden, short-term spikes. As we see a gradual recovery both in the repair and maintenance and in the new build market, hopefully Ireland recovers in such a way that that recovery is sustainable for the long-term."
Grafton's retail business is a relatively small part of its overall revenues, though it is an extremely competitive space nonetheless. In recent times one of the company's main competitors - Kingfisher - has made a significant push in the Irish market through its Screwfix brand, capitalising on the trend towards online. Mr Slark said he is confident that the company is in a good position to compete in this space through its Woodies brand, though he expects the in-person aspect of the business to remain at the fore for some time to come.
"It's still a relatively small proportion of what we do, we still tend to get most of our customers coming through the doors of Woodies and Chadwicks to pick the products themselves," he said. "But in all of our business in Ireland, the UK and mainland Europe we have got e-trading options for customers to use if they want to," he added.