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B&Q makes its mark in the trade

Every installer knows that the secret of a successfully completed project, finished on time and to budget, lies in the effective planning of all logistical requirements.

Similarly, we all know that the best laid plans of mice and men are frequently doomed to failure by unforeseen events.

These will, of course, happen at the most inconvenient time. For the HVAC sector, this will invariably occur on site and have the potential to sour relations with the customer or throw a spanner in the works of the job schedule.

It was for instances such as these, as well as the supply of general stock, that DIY retailer B&Q established its trade-only arm TradePoint, combining ‘the best of your local builders merchant and B&Q’.

At the time of speaking to TradePoint director Ian Herrett, there were 113 dedicated outlets operating within the larger B&Q stores around the UK.

Rapid expansion

By the time readers peruse this article there will be 120, says Mr Herrett, providing an instant illustration of how quickly things have developed, following the initial opening of four trial stores last year. There were a total of nine outlets operating in January of this year, before the intensive operation gained its full momentum in the months that followed.

“Our USP is centred on convenience and ease of finding TradePoint sites,” Mr Herrett says. “Everyone will know where their local B&Q is and they’re really easy to spot. We’ve seen a clear trend that the trade workers are working away from their local area more frequently, so it’s a big help to them if we’re easy to find.”

Explaining the method used by the company to create the module followed by each outlet, he describes the various sessions arranged with tradesmen in all sectors. These typically consisted of meet-and-greet events, inviting both existing customers and other trade professionals that sourced stock elsewhere to provide their opinion on what they required when sourcing and ordering stock.

“One of the main messages was that trade customers don’t want to mix with the public,” he says. “We listened to all the feedback, which showed us that separate trade parking and entrance and service counter were required. We spent around one-and-a-half hours with each of the groups and asked them what they wanted.”

TradePoint has also employed separate staff to run the outlets and established onsite warehouses for trade stock. And it has a dedicated website, www.trade-point.co.uk.

Mr Herrett describes the end result as taking the best of the B&Q and Screwfix operations, both members of the Kingfisher Group, and combining them with the results of discussions with trade professionals.

The outlets have been established at larger B&Q sites. Trade customers can now open accounts that will allow them to buy stock at the appropriate prices at any TradePoint outlet and the company is now updating its system to allow cards to be used at all B&Q stores.

Although no figures were available at the time H&V News called Mr Herrett, he says all sales targets have been exceeded.

Further proof of the successful nature of the project has been seen in the fact that 50 per cent of customers were new to B&Q, he continues, and attributes this to details such as clear trade pricing on all items, combined with a promise of picking catalogue orders within seven minutes for on-site stock collection.

He states that investment is ongoing and that more progress will be made in 2011 to extend the existing facilities yet further and attract more trade customers.