site. Part of the induction here is to explain that everyone shops in a different way and it’s often lead by the customer, so you have to use emotional intelligence almost to gauge it.”

Whilst Lee is keen there are always

staff on hand to help, the launch of a new B&Q app also takes the pressure off, allowing shoppers to plan their visit by finding the exact location of a product on the shop floor before they have even arrived. They can also interact with staff and order for click and collect. A simple scan of a product barcode provides the customer with information about key benefits, sizing, availability, and much more.

Lee explains: “With the best intentions in the world you can’t serve 30,000 people, so where possible, customers also need to be able to find information for themselves. We also make sure the team have the B&Q app on their phones. It took me a while to adjust to staff being on their mobiles at work but they’re using it to have a conversation and help customers. You can even direct shoppers to YouTube for ‘how to’ videos.”

Creating an atmosphere The store underwent a refit three years ago to incorporate a racetrack layout to guide customers around the aisles more effectively. Merchandising has also been

refreshed since then to include more lower-level displays to provide a softer feel and showcase lines in a more inspirational setting. “We’ve completely changed the way we merchandising lighting,” says Lee. “We’ve got low-level racking, so customers can touch and feel all of the standing and desk lamps because that’s what they want to do. When you look further up, we’ve got all the shades hanging from the ceiling light, and then we’ve lit up the other ones further up. It looks really effective.”

B&Q is now investing a lot more time and energy in staying ahead of the curve in trend-led categories, such as lighting, flooring, and home accessories. “You look at the new ranges and what we’re doing and it’s very exciting,” says Lee. “For example, we changed our home accessories offer just six weeks ago and, before that, 18 months ago. Previously, this would have been left for years. We have become more agile where we need to be. It’s an interesting journey we’re on now.” Looking at the flooring offer in the New Malden store, B&Q is clearly out to challenge the specialists, with a broader range, more inspirational

displays that feel less like a warehouse environment, and a host of new lifestyle imagery. “Before we did the re-vamp we had the old- style racks in, with height all the way along but now we have low- level racks. They like it because we can see the customers and they can see us,” Lee explains. “We have great new ranges of flooring.

hardwood People are

buying blacks, greys and whitewash at the moment…it’s really trendy. We update the range every six months at the moment – taking the slow sellers out and bringing something new in. And, I have to say, when we bring something new in, it tends to be something that genuinely sparks people’s interest,” enthuses Lee. An overhaul of the store’s tile department has also worked well, says Lee, who explains that a step- up in service, not just aesthetics, has enhanced the offer. “We have piles of the bulk ranges that traders buy but, with everything else, customers take a sample, try it at home; if they like it, they come back and we can order it, send an email, send a link straight through to our stock room, and by the time the customer has reached the counter to pay for it, the guys have already picked it for them and it’s on a trolley waiting to be wheeled to their car... It’s just simple stuff like that that makes a difference to people’s journey.” Meanwhile, new lifestyle photography adorns displays and the range has been extended. “Just look at the different colours we’ve got,” says Lee. “That’s the sort of thing you’d go to a specialist for before but we’ve got it now. This category started expanding nearly two years ago and we changed the range again about two months ago. We are constantly testing what works and what people want.” Part of the store’s new offer includes the installation of a Google smart home stand, which Lee is really excited about. The format is being trialled in 30 B&Q stores, of which New Malden is one, and there is clearly a pent-up demand, as Lee tells DIY Week he has already sold some of the stock before the stand has even been set up. “There’s a lot of innovation out there and that’s what people want us to be,” he says. “Before they would feel like they had to go to somewhere like John Lewis to get that.”

Despite axing its Homefit installation service last year and, with showroom sales reported to have dipped in the first half of this year, B&Q is making big investments in kitchens, with updated planning software, new on-trend lines and


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