Following a slew of exits from Kingfisher’s UK fascias B&Q and Screwfix, there are two new DIY chief executives in town.
Christian Mazauric officially took the reins at B&Q earlier this month after Michael Loeve stepped down after less than two years to run Netto International in Denmark.
And Graham Bell has become chief executive of trade specialist Screwfix after its boss of four years, Andrew Livingston, quit B&Q’s sister company to become chief executive of Howden Joinery Group.
What with the additional exits from Kingfisher of chief of sales and operations Jean-Paul Constant and B&Q retail director Damian McGloughlin, it’s been a year of upheaval for the DIY giant.
But the international DIY group’s chief executive Véronique Laury has promoted from within her ranks. The replacements to run B&Q and Screwfix have a total of 34 years’ Kingfisher service between them.
That is not to say the task in hand will be a cakewalk for either.
Not only do the DIY businesses have new rival Bunnings’ assault on the UK market to contend with, the new bosses are starting two years into Laury’s five-year transformation plan, One Kingfisher, designed to make the group function as a single unified company rather than a collection of individual businesses.
B&Q’s new boss Christian Mazauric
Loeve’s replacement at B&Q, Mazauric, kicked off his retail career with six years at Marks & Spencer. But, following that, he spent 16 years at Kingfisher, including 10 years on its board.
And he’s had a taste of many of the group’s businesses, having spent 11 years at B&Q’s French stablemate Castorama, nearly three years as B&Q’s chief financial officer and, most recently, running the Brico Depot fascia in Romania.
So it is fair to say that the Emlyon business school alumnus is familiar with the inner workings of the international DIY conglomerate, and B&Q.
The African-born retailer is known within the business as “the most British of the French”. His colleagues describe him as people-orientated, straightforward and having a good sense of humour.
But he has taken the reins two years into Laury’s One Kingfisher plan, which is subjecting B&Q – which accounts for around a third of the group’s revenue – to considerable upheaval.
“According to sources close to the retailer, B&Q – Europe’s largest DIY specialist – will not be simple to transform, in part owing to its sheer scale”
According to sources close to the retailer, B&Q – Europe’s largest DIY specialist – will not be simple to transform, in part owing to its sheer scale.
”The execution of Laury’s change agenda may be a harder task at B&Q than the other Kingfisher fascias, because it’s on a different scale to anything else in the group and with bigger challenges,” the source says.
The group already took a knock in its first quarter as old ranges were cleared and Laury’s unified ranges were introduced into stores, triggering some stock availability issues.
And with that “business disruption” likely to continue, it could be that Mazauric’s main priority will be limiting the extent of the damage.
Taking the helm now also means that Mazauric will be tasked with bringing the business in line with Laury’s centralised strategy, rather than putting his own stamp on it.
“There aren’t buying offices for individual businesses any more and the bosses are not responsible for products or fixing prices. Even pay is regulated from the centre. It’s not a proper chief executive role”
Former B&Q employee
”The job has gotten smaller,” one former B&Q employee says.
“There’s more control from Kingfisher now so the bosses of the individual business don’t have a lot of say.
“There aren’t buying offices for individual businesses any more and the bosses are not responsible for products or fixing prices. Even pay is regulated from the centre. It’s not a proper chief executive role.”
Still, if the Kingfisher veteran is happy to leave his ideas on the shelf – at least for now – Laury has more chance of delivering her strategy, which she is confident will bring £500m of sustainable annual profit uplift by the end of the five-year term.
Screwfix’s new boss Graham Bell
The same goes, of course, for Screwfix’s new boss Bell – its former operations and property director who is taking over from the highly regarded Livingston.
The company – generally considered the apple of Kingfisher’s eye, and previously accustomed to operating with considerable autonomy – will be now be subject to greater centralised control, sources say.
Read more: Data – Screwfix fortunes contrast with B&Q
And the Kingfisher lifer will be tasked with ensuring this transition plays out smoothly, without the business losing any of its sparkle.
However, as Screwfix is more dependent on brand names to attract its trade customers, it may not fit as comfortably as the other fascias into the One Kingfisher model with its “unique unified” ranges, some sources fear.
Still, B&Q’s superstar stablemate has less catching up to do on the digital front.
With its advanced omnichannel proposition and loyalty app, it has in some ways provided the blueprint for Kingfisher’s digital progress, whereas its sister companies have the arduous task of catching up ahead of them.
Is Bell the man for the job?
While Livington’s exit from Screwfix will not have gone down well at Kingfisher HQ – particularly as he has overseen the 500-store trade retailer through a period of great prosperity and growth – Bell, with more than 10 years under his belt at the business, should step with ease into his new role.
The Edinburgh-born dog-lover and keen DIYer worked side-by-side with Livingston during Screwfix’s growth.
“Graham’s ability to create, develop and get the best from not only his leadership teams, but teams within the wider business, is truly inspirational”
A former colleague speaks particularly highly of Bell.
“Graham’s ability to create, develop and get the best from not only his leadership teams, but teams within the wider business, is truly inspirational,” he says.
Kingfisher says Bell’s appointment is the result of “strong succession planning” and a “testimony to the pipeline of talent”.
It will certainly be a comfort to Laury to have two strong insiders as well versed in her radical transformation as Bell and Mazauric are.
As competition hots up, uncertainty clouds the UK housing market and the business faces turnaround teething pains, the woman steering the ship will want all of her crew to be truly on board.