Grafton Group, which owns the UK Buildbase chain, has reported a 25% decline in turnover for its merchanting business during the first quarter.

In an interim statement, Grafton said trading conditions were the most challenging for decades, with poor weather in the early part of 2009 and the 15% decline in the average value of sterling against the euro also knocking earnings.

Group turnover was down €220m to €470m, with 76% of merchanting turnover accounted for in the UK and the remainder in Ireland. Buildbase has 134 branches.

But the company said it expected to benefit from the seasonally stronger trading period in the second half of 2009.

No acquisitions were completed in the first quarter but two new Selco stores and five other outlets were opened.