New Malden is home to B&Q’s greenest store. John Ryan visits and tests out its eco-boasts
It’s been quite a long time coming, but B&Q’s all-singing, all-dancing, eco-store in New Malden, Kingston, is finally away from the blocks. And the 159,000 sq ft (14,770 sq m) B&Q Extra format (the second of its kind – the first is in Farnborough) has everything you’d expect of a retail outlet that aims to reduce CO2 emissions and generate energy sustainably. From the 35 metre-high tower that supports the UK’s largest wind turbine integrated with a building, to the verdant roof and the ground-source heat pump, this is a store that ticks almost every eco-(window)box.
It also happens to be a spectacular building, allowing for the fact that it is a variant on a shed and is situated to the side of a massive flyover carrying drivers towards central London on the A3. At three storeys, the store is higher than the adjacent flyover. The two lower levels are in fact for car parking (the ground floor also includes a trade supplies shop) with the top floor housing the shop itself.
The entire flyover-facing frontage is glazed, creating a dazzling effect, and is certainly massively different from the 43,000 sq ft (3,995 sq m) B&Q store that it replaces. Encouragingly, although there are the usual graphics around the 117,000 sq ft (10,870 sq m) selling floor promoting the store’s green attributes (the UK’s largest single selling floor, apparently), this is a reduced emissions store where it is business as usual. This is, after all, first and foremost a very large DIY store that happens to be more sustainable than others of its kind. Which means that while there are a few “one planet” graphics dotted around the place, the overall tone is not preachy.
It is also gratifying to see that while there is a limited amount of external wood cladding, not visible from the flyover, the temptation to cover everything in stripped pine has been resisted.
But what about the eco-numbers? If everything goes to plan and the various eco-elements perform as expected, B&Q expects a 50 per cent cut in CO2 emissions when compared with a traditional unit of a similar size. In addition, 17 per cent of the outlet’s energy requirements will be met by the combination of wind turbine and ground-source heat pump. B&Q chief executive Euan Sutherland says that the store will act as a test lab for future green stores. He cautions, however, that as far as a roll-out is concerned, deciding which components of the green jigsaw in this store are to be taken elsewhere will be a matter of “seeing what works”.
There is a sense that B&Q may be something of a latecomer to the green store ball, but this does carry the very obvious advantage that it is able to use the experience that has become clear in the efforts made by the big supermarkets.
And forgetting for a moment the store’s green credentials, there are a number of layout features that distinguish this shop as an evolution from others in the chain. Principal among these are the 17 shop-in-shops that form the store’s interior decor offer.
The majority of these are lined up side-by-side along an aisle running from the shopfront almost to the back and carry mood-lifting tags such as “Oriental Boudoir”, “White Romantic” and “Made by Nature”, as B&Q seeks to raise its interior enhancement profile.
It is also worth noting the bedroom department, which Sutherland says is an opportunity for B&Q. “Bedrooms is actually the least well-developed of our offers, but the biggest opportunity for us with MFI exiting the market,” he says.
“Customers are looking for value everywhere, but we’re seeing growth across the board,” he adds. And the New Malden store will surely be adding to B&Q’s chances of continuing to defy a difficult market.