Electricals retailer moves to connect with customers and differentiate itself from its rivals

Electricals retailer Comet is to refresh its branding, modify its product mix and refurbish stores as it attempts to improve performance.

Comet, owned by Anglo-French group Kesa, will unveil a new logo and branding in September designed, said group chief executive Thierry Falque-Pierrotin, to create a more “emotional” connection with shoppers.

He said the new look - including different corporate colours, staff uniforms and changes to marketing materials - would be “more contemporary” and in keeping with Comet’s service-oriented retail approach.

He explained: “There was no wrong message but we were not differentiated enough. We needed to be more emotional. The first thing the customer is often getting is advice and the customer needs to push open the door and feel they are in a nice environment.”

He said that Comet also intends to put greater emphasis on ranges such as small domestic appliances and accessories, which deliver higher margins, and enhance the online offer.

The new approach will be adopted as retailer refurbishes 40 shops this year after the success of changes piloted in seven last year.

Comet generated a retail profit of £11.5m in the year - an advance of 13.9% - helped by cost-cutting measures such as the closure of a regional distribution centre. Revenues edged down 0.6% to £1.65bn and like-for-likes slipped 1.4%.

Comet made market share improvements, including “significant gains” in white goods, and gross margin pressure had eased.

Some analysts remain concerned about the chain’s prospects in the light of the revival of rival DSGi - scheduled to update after Retail Week went to press - and the opening in this country of US giant Best Buy’s first big-box stores. Best Buy opens its third store, at Merry Hill, today and on Wednesday revealed it had found further locations in Derby and Nottingham.

Falque-Pierrotin insisted the changes Comet is making are not in response to those initiated by rivals.

Kesa reported full-year group retail profit up 28.1% to £98.6m on sales ahead 3.4% to £5.12bn. Adjusted pre-tax profit came in at £81.9m compared with £69.5m last year. Falque-Pierrotin expects trading conditions to remain challenging and has budgeted for the UK market not to grow.