Thousands of B&Q jobs at risk as Kingfisher shuts one in six stores

 

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More than 3,000 workers at B&Q stores are set to lose their jobs over the next two years as the parent company’s new boss revealed plans for a major overhaul of the DIY chain.

Véronique Laury, the chief executive of Kingfisher, said she wanted the company to be synonymous around the world with DIY, in the same way Ikea is with home furnishings, Zara with clothing and Starbucks with coffee.

However, her first act was to axe one in six stores across the UK, with 60 closing their doors for the final time over the next two years. Bosses insisted affected staff will be offered new jobs elsewhere.

She said the store closures were being done on a city and region basis and would be a mixture of larger and smaller sites, leaving “three or four” stores where “six or seven” existed before.

Six store closures were announced yesterday at Southampton, Dundee, Mansfield, Hyde, Barnsley and Stechford Road, Birmingham.

The closures, which will cost £350m, come after years of attempts by predecessor Sir Ian Cheshire to trim down larger stores through link-ups with other retailers.

It follows rival Home Retail Group’s announcement that it plans to cut a quarter of Homebase DIY stores by 2019.  The £7bn-a-year DIY sector reached its peak in 2005 and has been steadily contracting ever since, with analysts suggesting a lower interest in home improvements among younger generations.

However, Ms Laury said: “It is not a problem of generations. They probably have less knowledge than their parents, but they have the willingness to learn. You can look at things in two ways – they don’t know how to do it, so we can leave them with little knowledge or we do something about it. Where we stand as Kingfisher is with them to help them to improve their home or get them the help they need.”

Her comments come as she unveiled plans to scrap management teams for each individual brand in the Kingfisher stable – including Castorama and Brico Dépôt – appointing new bosses to run the stores according to size instead.

Ms Laury added that the overhaul would help improve the buying power of the company after it was revealed just 2 per cent of the nearly 400,000 products Kingfisher sells are available in two or more of its businesses.

It means B&Q’s UK and Ireland chief executive, Kevin O’Byrne, is leaving, with group sourcing director Guy Colleau taking responsibility for “big box” stores.

Ms Laury brings in fellow French national Alain Souillard to head up its “medium box” businesses, which include Brico Dépôt, and Steve Willett, the group productivity director, takes over running the “omnichannel operations” of Screwfix.

It comes as sales for the retailer dropped 1.4 per cent to £11bn, with pre-tax profits in the year to the end of January falling 15.2 per cent to £644m. The company was hit by exchange rate fluctuations as well as the stalling French economy. The shares closed up 4.3 per cent at 380.6p.

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