Fast Track: A-Z of Employers - Kingfisher

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The Independent Culture
Age: 16

History: In 1982, Charterhouse Bank gathered a group of 30 institutions to buy the UK firm Woolworths: it was renamed Woolworth Holdings and set about growing the B&Q business and giving Woolworths branches a new lease of life. It then added electrical goods store Comet and Superdrug to its portfolio, and was renamed Kingfisher in 1989. In the 1990s it has grown internationally, acquiring the French electrical retailer Darty and merging BCC (Netherlands), New Vanden Borre (Belgium) and BUT (France) into the business. It has also opened development offices in Hong Kong and has three B&Q stores in Taiwan.

Address: Head office is in Marylebone Road, London; there are also offices in Paris and Hong Kong, as well as regional stores in the UK.

Ambience: Varied, depending on office and type of store. There is plenty of diversity, and employees are expected to be able to adapt rapidly to changing environments. Generally friendly, but those on the management development trainee scheme will be ambitious to move on.

Vital statistics: The company has 84,500 employees worldwide, most of them in the UK. Sales last year increased by more than 10 per cent to pounds 6,409.4m, with profits of pounds 505.5m.

Lifestyle: Trainees may be expected to work shifts in stores, and must be mobile and able to relocate - help is provided with expenses - during the first six months of employment. After the initial two years, there is opportunity for international placements.

Easy to get into? The group receives 2,000 applications per year, and takes on 40 people after putting candidates through assessment and interview. A 2.1 degree is required. The number of people taken on may increase next year, however, because Kingfisher has just announced plans to create some 20,000 jobs over the next five years. Drive, ambition and self-motivation are the qualities recruiters are looking for. Call the applications hotline on 0870 6003377 or access the Internet site at

Pay: Trainees will start on pounds 20,000 in 1999. Their salary is reviewed every six months and rises depending on performance.

Training: Comprehensive. Kingfisher operates its own management development scheme that aims to put trainees on the track to senior management within seven to 10 years. New recruits are put through a management diploma, designed in conjunction with Oxford University, which includes residential courses and exams. There is also a mentoring scheme. Those who stay with the company progress to a course run by Manchester Business School.

Facilities: Most offices and stores have their own canteens, but there are no gyms yet.

Who's the boss? Kingfisher's new chief executive is Geoffrey Mulcahy; chairman is Sir John Banham.