London’s Holloway Road is the location of the first B&Q mini format, and it opens this week. But will it work and does it make commercial sense?
This is the week that DIY got smaller. On Friday, B&Q will fling wide the doors to its new mini format.
The logic would seem simple. In large conurbations the business of travelling to a store that sells hammers, power tools, gardening implements and suchlike is a time-consuming business.
The metric in locations of this kind is not how far, but how long. And for DIY enthusiasts, there used to be a solution to all of this and it was called the hardware store.
‘‘At some point, ‘hardware’ became the preserve of the IT crowd; the term largely ceased to have high-street meaning and we all headed to large DIY sheds on the edge of towns and cities”
At some point, ‘hardware’ became the preserve of the IT crowd; the term largely ceased to have high-street meaning and we all headed to large DIY sheds on the edge of towns and cities.
A few remained, of course, but they were very much the exception, and for many shoppers, if all that was required was a few nails, the journey to a retail park was still necessary.
Now B&Q is coming into town, and project DIYers who have run out of small items or who need something to complete the job may find that help is at hand, locally.
It makes perfect sense, and providing that appropriate property is both available and affordable, there is no reason to suppose that the Holloway Road model might not be followed by more of its ilk.
Convenience versus price
It’s the ‘affordable’ bit that may prove to be the fly in the ointment, however.
More central locations do tend to attract a premium, and 3,000 sq ft of space – the size of the forthcoming B&Q store – generally tends to be a bit more expensive than an edge-of-town shed, pound for pound.
If you are an independent trading locally, your prices will be a mite higher – it’s what the new array of artisan butchers, fishmongers and others rely upon when seeking local customers who want difference and to have things at hand.
This consumer pricing largesse is unlikely to be extended to larger concerns, so it becomes a matter of ranging.
The trick, as the high-street convenience stores from the big grocers attest, is to stock items that are at the better end of a range, preserving margin and keeping sales ticking over at a higher level, pro rata, than elsewhere.
Whether this can be done when it comes to a DIY offer is a moot point and it is something that B&Q will discover rapidly. The potential return of something approximating the hardware store should be warmly welcomed, however.