As shoppers get more comfortable buying big ticket items online, home and DIY retailers must come up with ever more inventive ways to lure shoppers through their doors.

As shoppers get more comfortable buying big ticket items online, home and DIY retailers must come up with ever more inventive ways to lure shoppers through their doors, and Homebase’s latest format in Worcester is a good example of that.

I walked round it with Homebase managing director Paul Loft last week, who showed me how they are trying to woo more female customers. It is a point of difference Homebase is increasingly leveraging as it seeks to differentiate itself from larger rival B&Q.

Not only is Worcester a good looking store, it is actually quite bold. Take the café, for instance. Homebase has positioned it right in the middle of the store, so it is the first thing you see when you walk through the doors. As Loft told me, that is quite a departure for DIY retailers, who would usually devote that prime selling space to seasonal goods. And as for the café itself, it is bright, eye-catching and well thought out and, importantly, quite full when I happened to stop by.

Other areas given the make-over treatment include the all-important garden department – Homebase makes about a third of its sales from the category – which sees Homebase employ all the best bits about a local, thriving independent garden centre. That includes wooden display areas and low level displays.

The Worcester store also features quirky signage, an impressive Habitat section and a revamped tool department – the men haven’t been forgotten altogether, then. And there is a focus on inspiration and service, with staff hours being freed up so they can spend more time on the shop floor and a range of digital screens offering hints and tips for your project.

It is a marked move on for Homebase, and no doubt the improvements will show in its like-for-likes. The question with new formats though is always this; how quickly can it be rolled out and is there the money to do it? It is all well and good having a shiny new format if the rest of your 300 stores haven’t been given a lick of paint since 2003. Loft is planning a further 24 refits this year, following 15 of an earlier iteration last year. That’s not bad going.

But if the aim is to take on B&Q, it has a long way to go yet. In the 52 weeks to February 1, B&Q UK & Ireland’s total sales were £3.7bn, compared with Homebase’s £1.5bn sales on just £18.9m of benchmark operating profit £18.9m.

That said, it is taking steps in the right direction, and whether its owner Home Retail decided to hang on to Homebase or not, the home improvement retailer could have a rosey future if it continues to invest in its customer proposition and emphasise its point of difference

  • Nicola Harrison is news editor at Retail Week