B&Q PLC is a British multinational DIY and home improvement retailing company, headquartered in Eastleigh, United Kingdom, and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Kingfisher plc. Founded by Richard Block and David Quayle in 1969 originally as Block & Quayle, the retail chain offers over 40,000 products across 300 physical stores and online shops.
The company also has some outlets in Ireland. Shops in China were unsuccessful, and closed down in 2015.
1969 to 1979: Early growth
B&Q was founded in March 1969 in Southampton, England, by Richard Block and David Quayle, following the purchase and fitting out of a former furniture warehouse in the Southampton suburb of Portswood. Originally called Block & Quayle, the duo soon shortened the brand to B&Q as stock delivery notes and invoices were already unofficially abbreviating the name.
By each working over sixty-hour, six-day weeks, they were able to repay their bank overdraft within six months of opening, with turnover reaching £1million within the first five years of operating. Following the departure of co founder Block in 1976, the chain quickly expanded, and by 1979, there were twenty six shops across the United Kingdom.
1980s: Buyout and further expansion
B&Q grew rapidly through a combination of mergers, acquisitions and expansions, such as the acquisition of Scottish based company Dodge City at the beginning of the 1980s. The chain was itself acquired by the F. W. Woolworth Company for £16.8m at the beginning of the 1980s, coinciding with David Quayle selling his share, who by that time had a personal wealth of £4 million.
Two years later, F. W. Woolworth’s United Kingdom subsidiary (Woolworth’s Ltd.) and B&Q were purchased by Paternoster, now known as Kingfisher plc and still B&Q’s parent company.
B&Q developed two new trading formats: HomeCentres, retailing furniture, bathrooms, soft furniture, flooring and lighting; and AutoCentres, being similar to a Halfords, the first launch taking place at Cribbs Causeway, Bristol, at the end of the 1980s. The concept being to have a HomeCentre, AutoCentre and DIY Superstore with one communal car park.
The forays into these new markets were relatively short lived, and the various sites were sold on a couple of years later. The AutoCentres becoming in the main ‘Charlie Browns’, the HomeCentres being sold off individually.
1990s to present
In the mid 1990s, B&Q opened a new format of shop known as the Depot (later changed to B&Q Depot), a forerunner of a new class of shop known as the B&Q Warehouse. The company also began to expand outside the United Kingdom. In 1995, the retailer opened their first overseas subsidiary in Taiwan, and in January 1996, the first overseas large home improvement centre in Taoyuan City, Taiwan.
In September 1998, it acquired NOMI, Poland’s leading chain of DIY shops, and later that year, merged with France’s Castorama.
The following year, B&Q opened a shop in Shanghai. In December 2000, Kingfisher plc acquired twenty eight development sites, intended to house future shops of rival chain Homebase from Sainsbury’s, who sold the chain. The development sites instead housed shops of B&Q. In August 2001, B&Q opened its first shop in Shanghai, when it hoped to increase outlets from four to 58 by 2005.
B&Q opened its first shop in Hong Kong on 1 June 2007, but was scheduled to close it on 13 September 2009. In December 2007, Kingfisher sold its 50 per cent stake in B&Q Taiwan to its joint venture partner. The $106.5 million (£51.6 million) sale, producing a profit of £25m was used to reduce debt.
In March 2009, B&Q closed twenty two of its then sixty three shops in China, blaming the housing slump. In May 2011, B&Q agreed to acquire thirty one shops in the United Kingdom, from the administrators of Focus DIY for £23 million. During 2011, B&Q opened a new regional distribution centre, at G.Park in Swindon.
In 2020, B&Q announced a sales increase of 17.6pc to £3.5bn for the quarter to October 31, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic during which people spent money on home improvements.
In March 2021, B&Q said that it is expected to open in Saudi Arabia by fall introducing home improvement products.
B&Q were reported to have a customer base of seven million in July 2016, of which it was estimated 75% use the retailer’s website to research their desired products, prior to purchasing in shop. B&Q have customer loyalty schemes, such as the Diamond Club scheme which entitles members over the age of 60 to a 10% discount on Wednesdays on many garden products. However, no new customers are able to join the scheme, after changes were announced on 2 August 2018.
The retail chain offers over 40,000 products across their three hundred shops and through their online presence. Reports in May 2007 suggested it was the second largest in Europe, and the fourth largest in the world (behind the Home Depot, Lowe’s and OBI).
By 2000, B&Q had fifty one large warehouse shops; this had doubled by 2003. By May 2014, B&Q in the United Kingdom had 359 shops, and 20,887 employees; and eight shops in Ireland.
In March 2015, Kingfisher said it would close sixty shops of B&Q in the United Kingdom and Ireland over the next two years. It would also close a few loss making shops in Europe. It also said that B&Q UK and Ireland could adequately meet local customer needs, from fewer shops, and some shops should be smaller.
B&Q account for around a third of their parent company’s revenues, seeing like for like sales increase by 5.6% in August 2016. In the year ending 31 January 2007, sales were £3.9 billion despite overall sales falling by 1.7% compared to the previous year, whilst profit was £162.9 million, a fall from £208.5m during the previous year. Profit fell further in the year ending 31 January 2008, to £131million.
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