May 9, 2021

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Kingfisher chief talks about how DIY is booming during lockdown


Attention to Detail: Chief Kingfisher Thierry Garnier

Sitting on the balcony of a café overlooking the spacious B&Q store in New Malden in Surrey, Thierry Garnier looks a little parched. ‘what is wrong?’ I ask.

“When you spend 20 years in the store, you can smell it if it’s managed well or badly,” he says.

Tall, sleek, and modern-day bearded, the French CEO spotted a stray wire hanging from the sheer ceiling.

Directly below us, the 55-year-old points out the empty spaces on the shelves displaying blue-green earthenware pots.

Garnier is a mathematician-turned-businessman who spent the first part of his career working in the French public sector for European Michel Barnier.

Chief Kingfisher honed his skills in retail and commerce at Carrefour, the flagship of hypermarkets in France.

His vision of Kingfisher’s future was incubated during a seven-and-a-half-year period in Carrefour in China, which taught him that the great challenge for Europe is catching up with Asia in the speed of e-commerce.

The years spent in Beijing also became an intellectual challenge for Garnier, his wife, and four children.

He had personally set out to become fluent in Mandarin, and by the time he left for his new life in the UK, he was able to read his morning paper while eating breakfast in Chinese.

It is meticulous attention to detail that sets the best retailers apart from the rest, and in the short 18 months at the helm of the company, the Frenchman, who now lives in West London, made an already massive difference.

Helped by the pandemic and lockdown, a Do It Yourself Do It For You company has seen a rise in revenue, profits and market share.

Among Garnier’s early decisions was to wipe out his predecessors’ “One Kingfisher” strategy, which meant promoting branded merchandise and consolidation across stores.

Booming: B&Q parent company Kingfisher has seen revenue, profits and market share soar during the pandemic as Britons used their lockdown time to spruce up their homes

Booming: B&Q parent company Kingfisher has seen revenue, profits and market share soar during the pandemic as Britons used their lockdown time to spruce up their homes

As we explore the vast floor space of one of the three best-selling B & Qs in the country, he points out that stores are back selling the best-known brands – Stanley Tools, Dulux Advanced German Brands Paints & Power Tools along with private label products.

Garnier also dismissed the notion that Kingfisher’s three distinct companies – B&Q for consumers, Screwfix for dealers and Brico, Continental cuts operation – could somehow lump them together under one brand.

“When you have these strengths, you don’t try to combine them into a single proposition,” he says.

It’s three different clients and three different pricing models. The strength is in the different signs.

Standing in the bright center of the park at the back of the store, a great destination for shoppers during closings, Garnier is very satisfied with the greenery and the brightly colored shrubs and shrubs displayed tightly.

Among the most popular lines are large ready-made pots filled with blossoming plants, ideal for apartment dwellers who have a balcony.

Boris Johnson's fiancée, Carrie Symonds, is said to have spent £ 200,000 redecorating 10 Downing Street.

Boris Johnson’s fiancée, Carrie Symonds, is said to have spent £ 200,000 redecorating 10 Downing Street.

As we pass through the nursery, the manager reported an influx of shoppers over the past weekend and anticipates an ever-greater tide away from the community during the Bank Holiday in May.

The next port of call on our store tour is a meticulous outfit with a click-and-collect desk. The area behind it is where employees sort orders online after selecting items from the sales floor.

The pandemic has been a catalyst for B&Q to develop an e-commerce game.

On the first day of its first shutdown, Garnier decided the DIY group needed to take action online right away. Although, technically speaking, the hardware stores were allowed to function, none of the disease protection protocols were ready.

To make the online mission manageable, as it rolled out across 300 B&Q stores, Garnier and colleagues chose to start with 6,000 lines, known in the terminology as stock keeping units, each marked with a barcode.

Working overnight, online stores were reorganized.

Garnier said: ‘We have responded to the explosion in demand by operating a selection of stores. This is usually the Chinese approach.

“China has a lot of store selection processes and it’s fast with a promise of 15 minutes delivery time from store to home.

“Over time, B&Q can expand its offering to include its full store assortment.” As Kingfisher adapts to the new post-Covid world, the Frenchman searches for the model in China.

“The younger generation of customers is really looking for speed everywhere,” he says.

You see it in the grocery store. You see it on TikTok and its 15-second movies.

When he was working for Carrefour in China, the Kingfisher boss knew that customers wanted their cart within half an hour.

This means 15 minutes picking and 15 minutes delivery. He seeks to apply the same discipline in his new process.

B&Q clicks and receives in an hour. We are fighting for speed. I think one hour is too long. In Spain they do it in 15 minutes and in Brafax in a minute.

In addition to turbocharging for online trade in the UK and in its continental operations, Kingfisher will also have to adjust its model to reflect cultural change during the pandemic and swing into DIY.

The more time people spend at home, the better for both the Kingfisher do-it-yourself and trade guns.

In addition to Screwfix, B&Q operates a cavernous self-service facility known as Tradepoint for the smaller builder, looking for timber or cement mixer rental, in the basement space below its supermarket.

“ If you’re more at home and have more wear and tear, you might be looking for a garden you don’t own and need a proper home office, a room to exercise in and maybe a gazebo, ” Garnier says. This is the new DIY.

Marketing surveys conducted by the company show that large groups of young people between the ages of 18 and 34 were drawn to DIY work, and 75 percent of them said they enjoyed it.

After the spread of the epidemic, which saw same-store sales across the group rise 7.1 per cent to £ 12.3 billion, Garnier is confident that the improvements being made to “crafts” and the home are set to produce good results in the medium term.

With the closure eased, B&Q has managed to reopen its kitchen design services, paint mixing facilities, and now increase its trendy wallpaper options.

It’s a pity that Boris Johnson’s fiancée, Carrie Symonds, didn’t even consider B&Q before choosing Lulu Lytle rococo.

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