Is B&Q about to move on to the high street?

5078

B&Q chief executive Veronique Laury has revealed the business is considering trading in its warehouse stores for convenience stores on the high street.

Speaking at the World Retail Congress in Madrid, Laury said that fellow retailers must “change or die” as she warned that the industry had to keep up with evolving alongside consumer habits in the wake of mass job losses and store closures.

“The biggest mistake that most retailers have made is thinking they are going to carry on doing what they have always done, with the same number of people and the same number of stores in the same type of location as they always have and just putting digital on top,” Laury told delegates at the conference.

The CEO admitted the changing retail landscape meant B&Q’s owner Kingfisher, which has 1,300 stores in 10 countries today, would probably see its 78,000-strong workforce shrink over the next five years, although she declined to say by how much.

When asked how Kingfisher’s stores would change in that time period, Laury hinted that the c-store format could be the business’ next move.

“I think there are two directions of travel for stores, I think one of them is ultimate convenience, to be where people want you to be and to be as close as possible to where people live,” Laury outlined.

“The big impact on that is urbanisation, everywhere in the world more people are living around cities. It’s about how you get to those people as close as you can.”

Kingfisher’s Screwfix stores have been opening smaller outposts in town centres, becoming popular with customers who don’t find it convenient to drive out of town for their DIY supplies.

The model could now be passed on to B&Q’s property portfolio, which has been steadily streamlined since 2015.

Laury went on to add that she believed Kingfisher was lucky to have such a big footprint in the UK (via its B&Q stores) because e-commerce was so advanced it was “like a lab” showcasing what would happen in other countries.

“What is happening in the UK today, I believe is going to happen in France in two or three years from now and probably in Poland in five years’ time,” she added.

“The pace of internet use and mobile equipment in those countries is catching up very fast.”

Click here to sign up to Retail Gazette‘s free daily email newsletter