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B&Q victim of changes in market

By Donald C McFetridge

Published 02/10/2015

B&Q on Belfast’s Boucher Road is one of five stores in Northern Ireland to close
B&Q on Belfast’s Boucher Road is one of five stores in Northern Ireland to close

The news that B&Q is closing five stores in Northern Ireland is yet another blow to the local retailing scene and economy.

The DIY chain said that, following a review of their space requirements, they would operate from a portfolio of four store locations by January 2017, as opposed to their present nine outlets.

This is a disproportionately large number of store closures for a region like ours, compared to the "one-in-six" model the firm claimed it would use nationally.

The company, which has operated in Northern Ireland for the past 26 years, is, hardly surprisingly, like many other major retailers going through a period of unprecedented change.

Interestingly, they have been keen to point out that their future retail offering in Northern Ireland will be complemented by their online provision and the continued expansion of their largely successful Screwfix outlets.

All this is underpinned by the fact that, not only is the DIY retail marketplace changing, but the DIY consumer is also changing and will continue to do so.

Some argue that, with a population the size of Northern Ireland, four outlets is more than sufficient to meet consumer demand, and someone at head office has obviously cottoned on to the fact that the number of chimney-pots here do not merit nine stores.

There has, of course, been a developing trend away from DIY towards DFM (do it for me), where greater emphasis has been placed on purchasing the raw materials or products at DIY outlets, but employing professional, skilled tradesmen to do the hard work.

Structural changes in the shape, size and value of the Northern Ireland housing market will also, obviously, have been a key metric in the recent decision to close these five outlets.

In the wider market context, until circumstances radically improve in the housing market, opportunities for DIY retailers will continue to diminish locally, nationally and internationally.

Until that happens, B&Q's owner Kingfisher is faced with the challenge of finding suitable positions for those unfortunate employees who will find themselves out of employment, if such opportunities do not present themselves.

  • Donald C McFetridge is a retail analyst at the Ulster University Business School

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