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Fears for local jobs as B&Q unveils plans to close or shrink its stores

It’s all part of parent company Kingfisher’s plan to be “unified” across Europe.

Image: Kyle May

Updated at 12.50

TRADE UNION OFFICIALS are worried about the future of hundreds of jobs in the Irish arm of B&Q after the DIY chain’s parent company announced plans to close or scale back a raft of stores.

The Mandate trade union has written to B&Q Ireland’s management after the company’s owner, Kingfisher, this morning revealed it would shut about 60 stores and scale back its product lines.

The union’s assistant general secretary, Gerry Light, said its members were “shocked and extremely disappointed” to hear about the plans through the media today.

Kingfisher, which trades as B&Q and Screwfix in the UK and the Republic, announced it was trying to roll out a “unified” offering across Europe as it unveiled its annual results.

Under the new arrangements, it wanted to get rid of around 15% of its “surplus” floorspace as well as its “few loss-making stores in Europe”.

That would mean the closure of about 60 B&Q stores, but the company is yet to announce which sites have been earmarked for closure – or how many staff will lose their jobs. Kingfisher hasn’t responded to a request for comment.

We would be very surprised if any of the store closures are to take place in the Republic of Ireland considering the sacrifices made by B&Q workers two years ago when the company engaged in their previous restructuring process,” Light said.

B&Q Ireland was placed into examinership in 2012 after recording heavy losses, however only its Waterford store was closed at the time.

Cutting products

Meanwhile, Kingfisher also said it planned to cut its range of products and make its offerings more similar across Europe. The company said only 7,000 of the items it carried – out of 393,000 available across all outlets – were worth 7% of total sales.

It came as the company announced its sales and retail profits were both down for the 2014/15 financial year when compared to the previous 12 months, although that was partially due to the relative strength of the pound.

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Kingfisher’s new chief executive, Véronique Laury, said the company need to organise itself “very differently” to unlock its potential.

This will involve taking what is essentially a locally managed set of businesses and creating instead a single, unified company where customer needs come first,” she said.

It will also be developing “unified” garden and bathroom businesses across Europe, Laury added.

UK and Irish sales up

The London-headquartered company said its B&Q UK and Ireland businesses could “adequately meet customer needs from fewer stores” and some of its outlets could also be smaller.

Sales across all its UK and Irish operations were up over 5% last financial year and profits rose more than 16%.

Kingfisger Source: Kingfisher

The company said it expected the closures to cost about £350 million (€481 million) over the next two years.

Kingfisher’s UK and Irish operations – which span 755 stores - accounted for about 42% of its total sales, while its 217 French outlets were worth 38%.

The remainder came from its stores in Europe, Turkey and China.

Rival supplier the Grafton Group, which runs the Woodie’s chain of DIY outlets, earlier this year reported a big bounce in its Irish sales for 2014 on the back of the recovering property market.

First published 10.32am

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About the author:

Peter Bodkin  / Editor, Fora

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