Kingfisher plans Screwfix blitz as public shuns DIY

 

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The Independent Online

Screwfix is set to open 200 new stores, vastly increasing its current estate of more than 400, as parent company Kingfisher, which also owns B&Q, responds to demand from households to bring in help rather than turning to DIY.

The decision to expand Screwfix, whose main market is tradesmen such as plumbers and electricians, comes six months after the new chief executive of Kingfisher, Veronique Laury, said she wanted to help consumers fall in love with DIY again. But she insisted: “We are about home improvement and not just DIY. We want to help people have better homes, so we are on a broader market.

“Across Europe, 58 per cent of homeowners have done home improvements or DIY, so I’m not concerned that our market is shrinking at all. The average salary within the UK is £27,000 and most people can’t afford to hire tradesmen.”

The new Screwfix stores will be focused on high-street locations, as Kingfisher attempts to bring the click-and-collect service closer to where tradesmen a are working.

Ms Laury explained: “Screwfix is a very good format for convenience because time is money for tradesmen. So we think we can open 200 without cannibalising any B&Qs.”

Kingfisher’s finance director, Karen Witts, added: “We’re actually looking at a variety of small formats for Screwfix in cities, rather than on industrial parks. We’ve started in London, with new stores in Wandsworth and Brixton, and hope to roll it out elsewhere.”

The announcement came as Kingfisher revealed a  4.8 per cent fall in sales, to £5.49bn, with pre-tax profits down 1.8 per cent to £386m in the six months to the start of August, due mainly to currency fluctuations.

The company also admitted that it has suffered the effects of a struggling economy  in France, where it owns Castorama and Brico Dépôt. Sales across the Channel declined by 10.4 per cent to £2.21bn and profits were down 16.4 per cent at £167m.

By comparison, the UK grew faster than analysts expected, with customer confidence returning to the high street and a more buoyant housebuilding market. The poor summer weather hit outdoor sales at B&Q, but this was offset by indoor product sales.

Rival Homebase revealed last week that its sales had improved due to an increase in demand for big-ticket items such as kitchens and bathrooms.

However, B&Q reported a fall in kitchen sales as Ms Laury moved away from heavy discounting and promotions, opting for more stable price points. This, she suggested, will be more beneficial to the business in the long run.

The chief executive added that plans to overhaul the chain’s buying strategy, by reducing lines in stores and buying centrally for all countries, were on track, with thousands of lines being cut across the business.

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