Retail Management: Master-class: “B and Q in focus, UK”

In October 2008, “Jos de Vries The Retail Company” had participated in a business trip to Great Britain. The trip was intended to search for and to learn any new solutions for “DIY” (“Do It Yourself”) stores. English shops have traditionally been ahead of European retailers, so indeed we’ve seen many interesting trends and solutions here. We want to share our experience with you, visitors! This is our first article on overall evaluation of the British retail chain “B&Q”.

Niko de Young, Irina Bolotova, “Jos de Vries The Retail Company”
Photo: Nico de Jong

B&Q in brief: Today, it is the third world’s largest DIY retailer (right after “The Home Depot” and “Lowe’s”). The retail chain has been developing since 1969. It was founded in 1969 in Southampton by Richard Block and David Quayle. Their names together formed the name of the whole shop (later shortened to plain “B&Q”). The retail chain developed swiftly, frequently engaging into M&A activity – and 10 years later, there were already 26 shops in total. In 1982 the retail chain was purchased by the “Paternoster” company (currently known as “Kingfisher”). In 90-es, the company became international, opening its stores in Thailand and – thanks to the merger – in Poland. In 1999 “B&Q” merged with French “Castorama”. Today, there are 332 “B&Q” stores in Great Britain alone. By the end of 2007, its turnover amounted to 3.9 billion pounds, with a net profit equal to ?162 million.

We’ll analyze the B&Q store in London’s suburb. It is one of the newest sights occupying 12 thousand sq. meters. For many retailers, such huge areas are very hard to deal with: it is hard to do zoning and to accommodate good correctly. This shop’s advantage rests upon good planning and visualization. The whole shop is an extended rectangle. Conceptually, it is divided into two parts: the decorative one and the gardening-and-construction one (about 2/3 of the total available space). This division reflects the general tendency: the decorative part yields more income and is more attractive in general (it “generates” flow of customers).

Okay, right at the entrance we see the “Lighting” section. A bit unusual, you think? Yes, but on the other hand, each customer instantly starts to “participate” in the purchasing process, remembering that he or she had plans to buy some light bulbs for his or her house. Strict vertical presentation and clear annotations to all sorts of light bulbs really help customers to make their choices. In the “Lightning” section, you are being “inspired” to make a purchase: for that, lamps are kept at upper shelves. Visual merchandising is employed, and no free space is being wasted for nothing.

In the main corridor and other decorative sections, you may see some corner installations. Well, they are used for demonstration of goods, so to speak, but we sincerely think that’s not a good idea because they look a bit alien for such a huge store which demands more serious attitude towards marketing.

The gardening section is located in the upper-right corner of the shop. Goods in the “gardening” category make this most complicated section of the store most attractive. B&Q found a very effective and easy solution of covering excess reserves of goods. Bright banners and curtains hide the upper part of shelves here – the shop looks tidier, there isn’t any stockpiling, but at the same time, goods are still right here, within reach. Banners and curtains may be lifted and lowered easily, allowing even pallets to be loaded with goods. They also inform customers where they are and “broadcast” other advertising messages.

The retail chain has implemented many interesting solutions in its “Decoration” section: many visuals and other ways to help customers here. The section with paintings (traditionally being most profitable in DIY stores) was made by B&Q to look most illustrative. Examples of colors are used to make your choice of the desired painting between hundreds on shelves as easy as it can be. The presentation of different brand names is easy to understand – of course, private labels have higher priority in spacing. The idea with “colorful schematics” is great and indeed may help customers, but we think that it is placed too high and is not as effective as it could be.

The section with wallpapers is divided into two – cheap wallpapers and designer (thus, more expensive) wallpapers. They are also designed and presented differently. Non-expensive wallpapers make a massive presentation with bright visualization and orientation towards warm “orange” color tones. There are storage doors knocking loudly when closed. “Design wallpapers” is another thing. It is a more “exclusive” presentation with samples of brands in possession. Here, you can make your orders or you may check for any certain brands with the “Order Point” (the personnel is ready to assist, if needed). If there isn’t any assistant in place, you may press the button – and your questions will be answered.

In the textile section there is a (in our humble opinion) most ingenious solution to sell decorative pillows right out of the producer’s large boxes: it saves free space, at the same time it looks tidy enough. However, the section with curtains looked a bit ineffective. There is a good cross-merchandising here (curtain track rest together with curtains), but the whole exhibition yields nothing: the row of brands looks endless and dull.

The section with kitchens is decorated brightly and attracts interest. There is black demonstration equipment surrounded by various types of stoves, panels and cooking surfaces: they look bright and effective, at the same time - not at the expense of each other. Not only B&Q demonstrates its equipment – it also helps to choose. For that, various photos of interior and cross-merchandising (like, for instance, panels and tables fitting kitchen sinks just perfectly) – might be of great use.

The “Construction” section was planned as most organized and informative. It is never easy for an average commoner to understand all nuances of construction tools and accessories, which is why the network really helps. It is their motto: “We make it easier”. Strict and clear presentation plus advice on how to choose the right screw-bolt or the right wooden floor covering make any customer’s task look easier.

In our next articles, we’ll continue our review of British DIY networks

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