Making sense of the past seven days

He may have been one of the more amenable chief executives in retail, but there will be no shortage of people celebrating the demise of Kingfisher boss Gerry Murphy.

The ex-Kingfisher mafia is a powerful force in non-food retail and it would be an understatement to say that most of them were not fans of the marathon-running Irishman.

They will claim that Kingfisher has, at best, stood still and, at worst, gone backwards in his five years at the helm. The critics say Kingfisher was slow to catch onto changes in the DIY market and even slower to update B&Q’s stores to reflect the shift away from drills and cement mixers and into home improvement.

Undoubtedly, there is some validity in these claims, although the issues have been addressed with vigour since Ian Cheshire was promoted to replace Rob Cissell at the head of Kingfisher’s UK arm. Turning around a tanker takes time.

A lot of the criticism of Murphy was unfairly tinged with an element of “he wasn’t one of us”. He wasn’t a retailer, either by experience or by instinct, but this didn’t matter as long as the priority was to seal a deal with global DIY leader Home Depot.

However, with that – or indeed a private equity takeover – now off the agenda, the focus has to be on retailing out of trouble and it is the right time for a change.

Kingfisher is in reasonable shape to attempt this. The international business is strong and there is a talented management team in place. But the outlook for home improvement in the UK is poor. No one is positive about consumer spending next year and when people are nervous about their financial security, it’s the big projects that tend to be put on hold.

It seems likely that Cheshire will get the top job and that would be the right decision. Having run the international business prior to B&Q, he knows Kingfisher inside-out and would hit the ground running at a time when the business cannot afford to be distracted. But, whoever is at the helm, it seems inevitable that a tough few years for Kingfisher will get even tougher in 2008.