B&Q's Hartwell pushes merits of larger formats

Bigger is better for the environment, claimed B&Q property director Terry Hartwell at last week's Accessible Retail Conference in London.

New research conducted by CB Hillier Parker for the DIY giant reveals B&Q's mammoth Warehouse stores are better for society than breaking the format up into a number of smaller stores - a requirement under planning policy and a point of growing friction between retailers and planners.

Research findings unveiled at the conference suggest disaggregating larger DIY stores into a number of smaller units increases traffic and the number of shopping trips. Extensive household surveys and exit polls were undertaken at B&Q's Warehouse store in Reading and smaller Supercentre store in Swindon.

'More shopping trips were linked with the Supercentre as opposed to Warehouse,' said Hartwell, who argued the Warehouse format meets planners' sustainability requirements.

He insisted most shoppers prefer the Warehouse format. 'Disaggregation is not likely to provide any benefit for shoppers. This would not appear to fulfil any planning purpose,' he said.

B&Q occupies more retail park and warehouse space in the UK and Ireland than any other retailer - 250 stores covering 1.6 million sq m. But it is still struggling to find more space. Intensive use of sites and further two-storey B&Q outlets are likely, particularly in London and the Southeast.

Hartwell said B&Q's first UK two-storey outlet at Sutton in south London has attracted more than 500,000 customers in its first six months of trading.

It is already one of B&Q's top 20 outlets and 'midway in the league of London stores', said Hartwell. Plans have been drawn up for a second two-level London store, topped by residential units in order to meet Mayor Ken Livingstone's demands that all new development in the capital should include affordable housing.