Diy group kingfisher said it intended to repay 23m it received in furlough payments from the uk government after the chains profits recovered strongly.

The company will also not be taking the job retention bonus of 1,000 per employee offered by the government for retaining staff, and has repaid the money it borrowed under the bank of englands financing scheme.

Adjusted pre-tax profits for the six months to july 31 were up 23 per cent at 415m, kingfisher said on tuesday, significantly ahead of the 361m average of analysts forecasts compiled by the company.

Sales were down 1.3 per cent at 5.9bn, as a big increase in online sales and a strong recovery in reopened stores offset the temporary closure of all outlets in its two main markets early in the covid-19 pandemic.

Kingfisher has benefited from a surge in spending on homes and gardens as people adapted their houses for working from home, using money they would have spent on holidays or entertainment.

Chief executive thierry garnier said the pandemic was creating new home improvement needs, as people seek new ways to use space or adjust to working from home.

Its also clear that customers are becoming more comfortable with ordering online, he added. online sales rose 164 per cent and now account for almost a fifth of revenue compared with just 7 per cent in the same period last year.

The momentum has continued into the third quarter, with uk sales up 18.9 per cent since the end of july and those in france climbing 16.7 per cent.

Mr garnier has also pushed ahead with the powered by kingfisher plan which reverses some key elements of his predecessors strategy.

Brands in each country, such as b&q in the uk and castorama and brico-depot in france, will have more autonomy to decide on their own product ranges and pricing, while the group will retain responsibility for own-brand lines.

He also plans a major expansion of ecommerce using the groups store estate for distribution, and the creation of new store formats including a pilot with asda to introduce b&q mini-stores in supermarkets.