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Thoughts on B&Q’s Small-Format Store

Can B&Q’s new small-format store fill the gap left behind by the traditional high-street hardware shop?

At Dalziel & Pow, we’ve been talking about the renaissance in the home-improvement sector for a while (read more here) and have worked with Leroy Merlin to develop their retail concept. This month, we see B&Q is aiming to capitalise on the trend with a new strategy involving community-focused initiatives (read more here) and small-format stores for the urban demographic.

After concentrating on improving its out-of-town ‘Big Box’ stores, last week B&Q changed course and launched a small-format store on London’s Holloway Road that’s targeted at a more local and inner-city population.

Entrance to B&Q's small-format store

First impressions 

The store has a clean and airy feel that’s in stark contrast to traditional hardware shops but perhaps missing some of their personality? Rather than aiming to capture the attention of its new urban customer with a design that differs from the brand’s retail-park spaces, it is very much in-step with them.

The bold orange, black and white palette is unmistakably B&Q, as is the layout with 12 aisles taking up the majority of the space and a selection of self-service and assistant-service checkouts at the front. There are several ways to purchase, but could there be more to help the customer in terms of service, assistance and inspiration?

service-desks at small-format store

New features

There are a number of interesting features aimed to engage customers and enhance the experience. As this is a much smaller footprint, the store stocks an edited product range – not a problem for the today’s customer who can access the full range from a smartphone. It seems this store will be used as a place to buy essential items or as a pick-up point.

If a customer wants to order something that’s not in stock they can browse the full product range on a service screen to click and collect or arrange a home delivery. Alternatively, they can process their order with a member of staff and receive a text message when it’s ready for collection – interestingly, an option proving particular useful for more elderly customers.

There is also a supporting Hertz van-hire service that’s a fresh way of tackling an issue some customers face when they need to get lots of product home on the day of purchase but don’t own a car – a common issue in urban locations. A customer simply needs to go to the Hertz service screen, rent a 24/7mini van and collect it from the car park behind the store– much better than cramming products into the back of an Uber or struggling on the bus! It will be interesting to see if this really takes off.

self-service screen at B&Q's small-format store

Community engagement

A ‘Your Local Community’ bulletin board highlights a series of projects B&Q are undertaking in the Holloway Road area, from creating a ‘quiet garden’ in a local school playground, to offering educational DIY workshops and a host of charity initiatives. They also welcome suggestions on neighbouring community groups in need of a £300 donation and are particularly interested in supporting organisations that aim to improve homes and gardens in the surrounding area. It’s great to see a brand entering a new location with the aim to give something back to the community– this importance placed on the ‘human touch’ is really commendable.

local community board at B&Q's small-format store

B&Q’s small-format store is a brave and interesting move but could this have been an opportunity for it to behave really differently? However, it is carefully designed with its local population in mind (be they digital native or senior citizen) and has taken into consideration what convenience means for a range of customers – demonstrated by the click-and-collect, home-delivery and van-hire services. This ‘not one size fits all’ idea of convenience is becoming increasingly relevant across retail and we will be watching to see how brands continue to approach it.

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