Brave new idea fails on content

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Sir Geoff Mulcahy finally poked his head above the Kingfisher parapet yesterday to present his brave new strategy, but anyone seeking a corporate Big Idea would have been sorely disappointed. This was a case of eight out of ten for presentation but a Eurovision nil points for content. At best it amounted to an admission that mistakes had been made in the past and a promise not to repeat them in future.

Perhaps it was a mistake to expect much more of a strategy cooked up in only six weeks by a board with only three executive directors, one of whom doesn't speak English.

This is Philippe Frances, head of Darty, the French electrical subsidiary. Though he communicates through an interpreter, he seems about the best thing going for Kingfisher right now; without Darty, Kingfisher's results would have been even worse.

Woolworths still looks like a pig in a poke. Good old Woolies may have strong market positions in odd little areas such as garlic crushers and light bulbs, but its three chosen specialisms of toys, childwear and entertainment are all offered in fuller ranges and at keener prices elsewhere.

Without wishing to be politically incorrect, the identification by Woolworths of the young mother as its core market just about says it all. Woolworths is a retailing concept whose time has been and gone.

It is hard to see what Sir Geoff can do to breathe life into the tired old formulae. Sir Geoff has been lucky to keep his job while so many of his colleagues have been fed to the lions, but few would envy him his present task.