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Comment: Kingfisher's B&Q botch-job is a lesson in how not to do a fixer-upper

JIM ARMITAGE

When you build a house, you plan it meticulously, stage by stage from the foundations up. No point trying to fit the windows if the walls aren’t finished.

If only Véronique Laury’s team at the DIY giant Kingfisher had been so careful. Four years into a five-year turnaround, it’s clearer by the minute that she and her team crashed headlong into this massive project with too little thought of the practical impact.

Let it be filed next to TSB’s IT debacle as a lesson in how not to do dramatic change. And take note, those chastising Aviva’s lack of adventurism today.

Laury’s idea of unifying the project range across the world was reasonable. Preston or Paris, a hammer’s a hammer. Planned bulk purchasing savings of

£300 million were tempting.

But replacing all old ranges for new across hundreds of stores, while also overhauling the IT was a building site accident waiting to happen. In France — 40% of Kingfisher — implementation was particularly poor. Not enough new stock, poor displays in-store, they made every mistake in the book. All the while, rival Leroy Merlin made hay. Savings in purchasing were wasted in the shops.

Laury hung on until summer before being replaced by Thierry Garnier, who quickly twigged that Kingfisher can’t handle this much change. He is hitting the brakes and will pay more heed to the squeals of his country managers, giving back some of the autonomy Laury took away. Cue sighs of relief internally, but yet more disappointment for shareholders.

Like all botched fixer-uppers, Kingfisher’s project will come in frustratingly late and over budget.