Mild weather, market share gains and a drive to boost profit margins helped Kingfisher , Europe's biggest home improvements retailer, beat third-quarter earnings forecasts despite a tough economic backdrop.

The group, which runs B&Q in Britain as well as Castorama and Brico Depot in France, said on Thursday the short-term outlook for consumers in those markets remained challenging.

It was confident of coping, helped by a drive to improve profitability by buying more goods centrally, and directly, from cheaper manufacturing centres like China.

Many European retailers are struggling as disposable incomes are squeezed by rising prices, muted wages growth and austerity measures, and amid fears a euro zone debt crisis could plunge the region back into recession.

Kingfisher, which makes about 40 percent of its sales in both Britain and France, said retail profit rose 14 percent to 273 million pounds in the 13 weeks to October 29.

That compared with a forecast for 263 million pounds in a Reuters poll, and marked a slowdown from 18 percent growth in the first half.

Sales at stores open over a year rose 1.9 percent in France, broadly in line with expectations and down from 4.6 percent in the first half. Mild weather drove a strong rise in sales of outdoor products, with lawnmower sales up 17 percent.

Like-for-like sales on the same basis in Britain were down 0.9 percent, improving on a 1.8 percent decline in a first half disrupted by the closure of rival Focus DIY.

Garden furniture sales leapt 68 percent as Britons took advantage of autumn sunshine to make up for a wet summer.

Shares in Kingfisher, which runs around 900 stores in eight countries, have outperformed the STOXX Europe 600 retail index <.SXRP> by 6 percent this year, They closed at 255.6 pence on Wednesday, valuing the business at about 6 billion pounds.

(Reporting by Mark Potter; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford and Dan Lalor)