Business doubles as migrants return to Poland

"The Polish builder is now back here," says chief executive of Kingfisher in Poland. 03 November 2008. Kingfisher, Europe’s top home improvement retailer, plans to double its Polish business over five years, saying the return of over a million migrants will help limit the impact of a global recession there.

The British firm said it was aiming to have 100 of its Castorama and building trade-focused Brico Depot stores in central Europe’s biggest economy, up from 48.

Chief Executive Ian Cheshire said Poland would not be immune to a looming global recession, but that a young population, demand for new housing and rising wages would ensure the country outperformed Kingfisher’s main UK and French markets.

"Even though we don’t expect it will escape the recession … I am absolutely convinced that it will perform better than France, which will probably perform better than the UK," he said on a media trip to Warsaw to its largest store by sales volume worldwide.

He said business would also be helped by the return of many of the 1.5 million young Poles who have emigrated in recent years – many of them to Britain – as they look to set up family.

"The Polish builder is now back here and building his own house and flat," Cheshire said.

Pawel Walus, Castorama Poland operations director, said 80 per cent of migrants were expected to return following a strengthening in the Polish zloty and a rise in local wages.

Poland has been a rare bright spot for Kingfisher in recent years, as it battles a slowdown in consumer spending and a plunging housing market in Britain, a more modest consumer downturn in France and government curbs on building in China.

Its Polish business accounted for 65 million pounds ($106 million), or 23 percent, of group trading profit in the 26 weeks to Aug. 2, with like-for-like sales up 11.6 percent.

But in recent weeks the country has been swept up in a loss of investor confidence in emerging markets, even though it does not have the level of foreign borrowing of troubled nearby countries like Hungary and has a large internal market.

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