B&Q’s new local store on London’s Holloway Road follows the trend of big merchants moving closer to town and city centres.
Suppose the end of a DIY project is near – all that’s required is one more tin of paint, a few screws to hang pictures and job done.
Where are you going to go? Probably you will have to jump in the car and spend the best part of an hour in heavy traffic to get to the nearest DIY retailer at the edge-of-town retail park.
It sounds like something of an exaggeration, but for many it will be close to the truth. Hardware stores have more or less disappeared and little has taken their place.
However, things may be changing. B&Q opened its first compact store on north London’s Holloway Road. Compared to a standard 100,000 sq ft B&Q site, this 3,000 sq ft store is a minnow.
The clue as to what lies within is provided in the store-long windows that face on to this arterial road that takes north Londoners into the city’s heart – the message reads: ‘The Best of B&Q on Holloway Road’.
The nearest major DIY sheds lie in Kings Cross to the south and Golders Green, Tottenham and Staples Corner to the north. None of them could readily be described as handy if you live in this heavily-populated area of London.
All of which means that B&Q’s mini store is convenient to landlords and local flat-dwellers who probably don’t have a car – they use public transport in this neck of the woods.
Step inside and a sense of ‘putting a quart into a pint pot’ is apparent.
Immediately on entering there’s a service desk, where kitchens and bathrooms can be designed on a screen and keys can be cut, and a sales point.
Looking beyond, there is a wall of paint along the back, with pride of place going to US brand Valspar. Unlike its bigger sister stores, paint stock is organised by brand not colour. A paint mixing service is offered.
Interestingly, the mid-shop unit has been devoted to paint brand Farrow & Ball, which in the same manner as a Waitrose, is increasingly perceived as a yardstick of an affluent area.
There are four major mid-shop aisles which, this being a small shop, are just above waist height, presumably for sightlines, ease of navigation and a measure of in-store security.
“Some people will carp that products can be purchased cheaper elsewhere – but that’s not really the point”
Beyond the paint, the edited B&Q range is as might be expected – shelves devoted to tools, screws, nails and a small space for some building materials, all of which can be carried home easily.
The window has a long and low shelf for power tools. These are live, allowing shoppers to test drive them.
The major question is whether a compact B&Q store will be a hit with its target customer. The retailer does appear to have spotted a gap in the market. Inevitably, some people will carp that products can be purchased cheaper elsewhere – but that’s not really the point.
Like high street convenience stores from the big supermarkets, B&Q has opted to stock some better-end products from its ranges in this store, but the trade off is that shoppers will not have to travel far in order to get what they need.
Larger items, such as gardening (although gardens are very much a luxury in these parts) and building supplies, are available for via click-and-collect. The traditional hardware store rarely stocked big products back in the day; a dustbin-style incinerator being about as far as it went. And it is a distinctly more pleasant shopping environment than those familiar with hardware stores might be used to.
High levels of natural daylight, well-informed staff and ease of selection owing to the curated nature of the offer make this one an effective grab-and-go outpost.
Michael Loeve, chief executive, said: “Holloway Road is a trial. We have yet to decide whether there will be any further stores. If it looks like it meets a need, we’ll do further trials before actually considering a roll out.”
Meantime, this new store in north London does a job and it does it well.
B&Q, Holloway Road, London
Opened: February 10, 2017
Size: 3,000 sq ft
Shopfitting: Bridgford Interiors
Store equipment: Itab