Homebase stores – potentially in as many as 150 branches – but plans are still fluid. “The biggest stores will have a shop, which will look like a Bathstore and the staff will be trained as Bathstore,” say Damian. “There will be four touchpoints for the Bathstore brand: the Homebase website will have Bathstore linked in, there will be the standalone Bathstore website, concessions in our stores and, then there will be the Bathstore range within our bathroom offer.” A head office structure plan has also been put in place for Bathstore and it was announced just last month that Ian Penney had been appointed director of Bathstore. He will take direct management responsibly for all aspects of the Bathstore business, including the concession roll out into Homebase, Bathstore’s digital offering and the home improvement chain’s bathroom category.

Changes afoot The addition of new concessions is not the only change customers visiting their local Homebase store will see in coming months. A number of stores have already had work done, with changes to layout and a stronger focus on decorative. The Home@Homebase brand launched this week, comprising hundreds of new furniture and home accessory lines. Plus, there are plans afoot to upgrade the mezzanine spaces in store. “We will


take some of the learnings [from Bathstore] into kitchens and we plan to re-brand all of our mezzanines,” says Damian. “I want things done at pace and sometimes

that can

put people into a spin,” he laughs. “I want a significant amount of mezzanines done this side of Christmas – I do realise that is a massive undertaking.” He continues: “We have re-laid eight stores, with more to go. We have brought in the brand new Dulux mixing machine and these stores are performing well. We are seeing double-digit growth.” Other areas seeing investment include digital, which Damian views as “the pillar of our strength”. A lot of work has gone into this area already, first unlocking it from HRG and re-building it as part of Bunnings when the Australian chain took over and, more recently, moving

away from that and

developing the site as Homebase in its own right. “We’ve spent the past three months trying to build it up again,” Damian explains. “We are making significant investment and progress with digital and it is coming on at a good rate.” Again, the retailer is keen to ascertain its online identity and what it wants to offer customers, from product range, to digital services. “We are asking questions like ‘are we going to offer click and collect or reserve and collect – or even both?’,” says Damian. “Being a late starter is

good because it means we can learn. We are doing lots of research but also need to follow it up with our gut and what we feel is right.” He is keen not to rush the process and ensure everything is ready to go before a full launch that incorporates all aspects of the business. “Digital could probably be ready to go by January but it’s the end-to-end stuff we need to think about – the logistics, so on.”

the supply chain, and

It is also very easy to get carried away and want to make all changes straight away but Damian concedes every decision must be made carefully and at the right time. “We want to invest in people, stock, range, digital – so many things – but we’ve also still got to pay rent, so it’s about prioritising.”

Damian has identified a number

of areas of growth for the business and explains that decisions are being made based on what will sit with the Homebase customer type. “We are working on key questions like ‘who is our customer?’ and ‘who do we want to be?’. We want to be first for decorative, first for gardening and also great for room solutions. We won’t be a trade centre. We are very clear on what we want to do in decorative and the suppliers are really backing us. We also see there is an opportunity to be a garden centre 52 weeks of the year.” Asked if trade professionals are likely to continue to shop in the

new-feel Homebase, Damian says: “I think tradesmen will still come in but it’s not what we will lead with. They will come in for decorating but they won’t necessarily come in for harder stuff. Our core strength is mass-market DIY and core decorating.”

And, how is it working under new owners we ask. “Hilco has been brilliant to deal with,” Damian enthuses, pleased that Homebase is being allowed to operate as a separate business. Describing how far Homebase has

come under the leadership of his new management team and what he hopes to achieve, Damian says: “The business has turned around dramatically in the past 18 months – the team has done a fantastic job. I think we can shock people. We’ve got to do some tactical trading and re-build the brand. Something Homebase has is great customer loyalty and great teams of people. “Once we start putting the ranges

back in, then we can tell people about it. We don’t want to shout about it and then disappoint people if things aren’t in place.” During this period of growth Damian believes “a lot

leadership”, as he oversees 8,000 people now working within the business. “It’s important to keep ourselves grounded… We’ve got to listen, learn and remain agile. The retail market has changed and it will change again.”

is about

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