Veronique Laury, chief exec of B&Q owner Kingfisher, outlined her vision for the future
B&Q could ditch openings of giant out-of-town warehouses to focus on smaller convenience stores, its boss has predicted.
Veronique Laury, chief executive of B&Q owner Kingfisher, outlined her vision for the future of the company, which also owns Screwfix in the UK.
Asked at the World Retail Congress in Madrid how stores owned by Kingfisher will change over the next three to five years, Laury hinted that opening convenience stores could be its next move.
She said: ‘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.
‘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 could roll out plans for its B&Q business similar to the rapid expansion of its Screwfix stores, which sell tools for tradesmen.
While B&Q sales have been suffering, with a fall of 5.3 per cent last year, Screwfix has been a stand-out performer with growth of 16.7 per cent.
Its model of smaller outposts in town centres is a hit with customers who don’t want to drive miles to a bigger shop.
Rival Homebase, bought by Australian chain Wesfarmers, saw its transformation into Bunnings stores fail as customers shunned the idea of going to big, warehouse-style shops.
While B&Q sales have been suffering in recent years, with falls of 5.3% last year, Screwfix has been a stand-out performer with growth of around 16%
Kingfisher aims to open 550 Screwfix stores in the UK, so that 97 per cent of people are within a 30-minute drive of a shop, and has opened hundreds in the last few years.
Its five-year strategy is to cut costs, improve IT and integrate its products across all businesses.
Laury said stores were also likely to stock fewer products, with staff on hand to offer advice on what to buy.
‘I was in one of our stores last week and there was a whole display 10 metres high of head tool replacements for drills.
‘I thought as a customer, who is going to shop like that in five years from now? And actually, I thought, no one.
‘We don’t need all of that stock in our stores in the future, we definitely don’t.’
Laury, 52, who lives in France and has a daughter and two sons, said many businesses had simply been too slow to react to the pace of change created by companies such as Amazon.
She said the unstoppable boom in online shopping meant Kingfisher’s workforce was likely to shrink over the next five years but declined to say by how much.
It employs 78,000 people at its 1,300 stores in the UK, Western Europe, Russia and Turkey.
She said: ‘For 50 years, retail has been location, location, location. The race was to get the best store in the best location and if there is a cost associated with that it would be fine. Technology has changed all that.’