By Damian Walters, BiKBBI Chief Executive:
With B&Q’s announcement that it was intending to close its Homefit division last week, I’m surprised that it’s taken so many by surprise.
Headline: ‘Do it Yourself specialist withdraws Done for You service’.
B&Q is synonymous for serving the Great British public with everything they’ll ever need for DIY projects, so I’m personally not at all surprised that the retail giant is considering reverting back to its roots.
Of course, their commercial decision will undoubtedly be causing great concern amongst the staff involved. We must be respectful and mindful of that, especially in recognition that commercial decisions often impacts on real people and real lives.
I’m far from spiritual myself, but I do try to live my life with positivity. Even back in my old commercial days when working for the national retailers and part of redundancies and uncertainties myself, I always tried to be positive, although I know that won’t be easy for those affected today.
But, knowing the retailer as I do, their people are amongst the best in business. Highly trained, competent and professional – I would say, highly sought after. I’m positive that they’ll be absorbed back into orange, or indeed targeted by others, which I can see are already circling within the industry… God bless LinkedIn!
So, the decision in numbers.
In addition to the staff, B&Q work with a national network of sub-contracted specialist installers… Over 1,000 businesses who install tens of thousands of kitchens and bathrooms for B&Q and other retailers, as well as direct for customers.
So, what of these people?
Ordinarily you’re used to me harping on about the negative effects of a skills shortage here in the UK, but not today. Today I’m thankful of the skills shortage, because these installers will more than comfortably be absorbed back into industry – it can be business as usual.
Mark Rigby and his team at B&Q are keen to provide maximum support for installers. Whilst not employed by B&Q [PAYE], I know Mark views these installers as an extension of his team… To his credit, he’s actively encouraging a controlled and respectful migration to be fair – something he doesn’t have to do.
When the time is right, BiKBBI will act as an introducer for those installers who want to be introduced to our retail partners and the wider industry.
“We’ve seen it all before” they said…
From the installers perspective, naturally they may think they’ve ‘seen it all before’ and we’ve already heard rumblings from a few comparing the situation to the likes of MFI’s demise. A closure that left installers out of pocket and with a pipeline of work ripped away, over night.
However, this situation is clearly far from that.
This isn’t a collapse, it’s a commercial change of direction.
Whilst times will be different for installers, it should be viewed as GREAT news for them, although again, I appreciate and respect that it may not feel that way today.
In this instance, installers will be paid, installations booked will be honoured and the urgency to fill the diary almost eradicated. Most of the installers have weeks and weeks of customers lined up… As Lance Corporal Jack Jones said, “Don’t panic – Don’t panic!”
B&Q will be continuing its partnership with BiKBBI, at least until the proposed close down in December, which means their installers will be fully supported by us as members of our organisation.
When it comes to migration, BiKBBI will be the vehicle for this process, as we’ll not only be introducing these businesses to our retailer members, but we’ll be handing fully compliant installers over. Installers, who’s documentation and credentials are in tip-top condition… There will also be a mechanism to introduce administrative, design and field management staff too.
That’s less risk and cost for the retailer and a more efficient way of migrating great people. Of course, we must all be respectful of those customers waiting for installations to commence, so the migration will be controlled as to not let customers (families) down.
How about the customers then?
B&Q will continue to sell kitchen and bathroom product, with the only change being that it doesn’t sell the installation service.
With a combination of technically advanced product, complexity of installation, legislation and building regulations, customers will still need to connect with professional installers… Consumers still want a done for you service and as such retailers will want to connect them with a competent network of professional tradespeople.
BiKBBI will be working with B&Q on this topic too. Should the changes go ahead, we are looking at ways to help them to signpost customers from July to professional installers… perhaps even our members, who yes – you guessed it – are current B&Q installers!
So, the retailer would focus on what it does best, the installer opens up new channels to new customers (potentially opening widening its services to customers and indeed subsequent revenue opportunity) and the customer still gets access to great advice, guidance and importantly professional installers.