B&Q losing sight of big picture

MD of KBBG Bill Miller says B&Q’s move away from installation will benefit the independent retail sector

17 Sep, 18

Managing director of KBBG Bill Miller explains how B&Q’s move away from installation to focus on design and sales will benefit the independent retailer sector now and in the future.

My understanding of the recent changes at B&Q is that it is no longer going to offer an installation package under its Homefit brand name. But I have also read it is going to recruit 800 designers.

In my experience of the industry, consumers want the full 360° package. They don’t want 180° of the package and have to go out and sort out their own installation.

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Not meaning to sound controversial but the installation aspect of the kitchen is probably where the greatest percentage of issues or customer complaints arise.

I can see why B&Q is doing this. I daresay an accountant has looked at the cost of installation, as well as call back costs, and probably said ‘it’s not for us’.

But I think it is losing sight of the bigger picture of what consumers look for when deciding where to buy their kitchen. I’m sure B&Q is going to come to the market very aggressively, pushing on price with a no-frills service other than design.

There are plenty of customers out there who will be happy with that and will welcome it. I’m sure B&Q has done plenty of market research and who am I to criticise its strategy?

But, in my experience, a lot of consumers who are seeking a good price also want good service, and for the process of having a newly-fitted kitchen or bathroom to be as easy as possible.

Promote full service

I would have thought this would play into the hands of the independents. They will now be clearly able to advertise the fact they do offer the full design, supply and fit package, which I’m sure will be very attractive to a lot of customers.

Most independents have been fairly negative about the likes of B&Q and their ability to install kitchens over the years; and this decision plays into that. Most retailers I have spoken to have said they could see it coming and it was just a matter of time.

If you think about your typical ‘Momma and Papa’-type showroom, the person a customer meets is probably the person they will interact with throughout the whole process – from the design, organising the delivery and project managing the installation.

A lot of customers like that and it’s probably why they selected an independent retailer in the first place – for that service approach.

With B&Q going to offer an installation service, it further supports that view if you want a full service package, the independent is the way to go.

Employees for future

One of the biggest challenges in our industry is recruitment and it is set to become a bigger issue as time unfolds: there is a massive skills shortage.

Not many people I meet had an initial burning desire to work in the industry before drifting into it, and then they find a niche for themselves. So the fact there’s going to be a big influx of new people has got to be good for the industry.

A designer at B&Q today could be an owner of an independent kitchen or bathroom business further down the line.

I have met some really successful independent retailers and when you talk about their background, it’s surprising how many will say they came up through the ranks of DIY chains and that’s how they cut their teeth.

It does seem to be a common pathway, for independent retailers to have started out and learned their trade from the nationals. Having been successful there, they have then moved on to open their own business.

It has to be good to bring fresh blood into the industry. One would hope that five or six years down the line, some of these designers will come to be independent retailers, securing the future of the sector.

B&Q losing sight of big picture 1

Pictured: Bill Miller, MD of KBBG