Sales of building materials rebounded strongly in January, 22% up on the same time last year and 10% ahead in the first three weeks of February.
Travis Perkins’ results for the year were also much improved with sales across the builders’ merchanting and Wickes chain up 5% to £3.15bn.
The upturn helped profits recover even more strongly, up 20% to £217m.
Geoff Cooper, chief executive, said he remained cautious about prospects for the year even after a strong start.
“We expect conditions for the next 12 months to remain difficult.
“There is considerable gloom in the wider economy, but we do not subscribe to the double-dip theory.
He added: “The merchanting market fell by over 30% from its peak in 2008 and although activity has picked up a little, from a longer term perspective, activity levels are currently around 20% below their peak.
“Although we will probably see some turbulence in short term trends, we expect activity levels to continue their gradual recovery. In contrast, we expect the retail market to continue to be soft.”