DIY retailers help themselves

Now the DIY boom is tailing off, the DIY retailers are looking to branding to maintain their market share.

Most do-it-yourself retailers admit they haven’t pushed their brands as hard as their colleagues in other retail industries have.

But things are changing fast, with B&Q, Wickes, Homebase and Do It All all in the midst of design overhauls aimed at strengthening their brands.

B&Q is market leader with a 15.8 per cent share and 283 stores, followed by Homebase (since taking over Texas Homecare), Wickes, Do It All and Great Mills.

The DIY sector has enjoyed two years of strong growth boosted by building society windfall payments and the broadening popularity of home-improvement, reflected by programmes such as the BBC’s Changing Rooms and Homefront.

But Richard Perks, senior analyst at retail research consultant Verdict, says, with the majority of windfall payments now spent and the economy slowing, the DIY sector is unlikely to achieve much growth in the next two years.

Meanwhile, a Verdict report last summer claimed recent growth in home-improvement “does not alter the fact that there is a degree of overcapacity in the DIY sector”.

It recommended that chains build their brands by “establishing and maintaining points of competitive differentiation”.

“DIY is not an easy market [in which] to achieve this. Products are functional and generally require action on the part of the purchaser before being used,” the report added.

The DIY chains would appear to have taken Verdict’s report to heart, with a number of the major players revamping identities, interiors and own-brand packaging in recent months. Particular attention is being given to own-brand packaging as a key communicator of the retailers’ brand. Own-brand products yield higher margins than branded ones.

This week B&Q was due to unveil its new corporate identity as part of a complete overhaul of the client’s own-brand design. This addresses packaging and positioning across B&Q’s entire product range. M&K is masterminding the project, revamping the logo and creating a design roster to help translate the new packaging concept into its own-brand product ranges.

The roster initially comprises Elmwood, Pyott Design, Lippa Pearce, Hull group The Core and Hong Kong consultancy The Jupiter Group (DW 17 April).

B&Q has no design expertise in-house and has previously left own-brand design to the suppliers. Own-brand design currently accounts for less than 30 per cent of the chain’s product range.

“We want to take a step forward for the DIY market, to make the brands more sophisticated like Tesco or Safeway. Leaving design to suppliers had led to low quality and inconsistent design and we wanted to standardise the brand,” says M&K design director Astrid Martin. She is consultant design manager for B&Q. Martin is not alone in wanting to bring her client’s own-brand products into line with the branded ranges it stocks.

Wickes is also working to strengthen its brand, creating a new post of brand manager a year ago to oversee a uniform brand evolution. It launched a new format at the beginning of the month, being piloted at six locations around the UK. This was designed in-house. A revamped logo, by consultancy JSP, with a new strapline is also being rolled out.

Wickes does not operate a design roster. Brand design manager Andrew Perks (no relation of Verdict’s Richard) says the newly introduced strapline “home improvement centres” is intended to push the store as more of a “soft” consumer outlet for homeowners. He says Wickes is wrongly perceived as a “hard” outlet catering for builders and DIY enthusiasts when the majority of its customers fit into the softer consumer bracket. However, it is no secret that Wickes caters for a much higher proportion of builders than other retailers in the sector.

About 98 per cent of Wickes’ product is own-brand. The softer, more consumer-focused chains like Do It All, Homebase and Great Mills carry below 30 per cent own-brand products. B&Q lies somewhere in the middle. Either way, DIY chains are attempting to make their brands more consumer-friendly.

“The new [Wickes] logo is softened to reach more general consumers. We have changed the primary colour from black to blue and softened the W,” says Perks.

“The pilot interiors are also aimed at pulling in the less confident DIY customers. There are decor advisors and building advisors in the stores. We have introduced a range of graphics on the walls,” adds Perks.

At the end of last month Do It All opened a new concept store in Stockport. This divides the store more clearly into product areas and is intended to give greater coherence to the interiors. If successful, the concept will be rolled out further across the chain’s 139 stores. Marketplace Design is behind the concept.

In the last year Do It All has introduced new own-brand decorating and gardening products and has revamped some of its packaging ranges. The client’s product range is 20 per cent own-brand and it operates a packaging design roster.

Meanwhile, 20/20 and Crabtree Hall/Plan Créatif are developing identity and new store interiors for Homebase, Sainsbury’s DIY chain (DW 27 February).

Verdict’s Perks says with growth in the DIY sector likely to plateau over the next two years the major players are right to concentrate on strengthening and stretching their brands.

Most are opting to expand their ranges in the softer end of the market, such as gardening and decorating. Viewed in this light one can see why the DIY chains desire to compete with their colleagues in the supermarket sector.

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