Digital transformation needs a purpose, says Kingfisher CEO

“You never get to the transformation if you focus on the short-term numbers,” Kingfisher’s CEO, Veronique Laury, told delegates at the FT’s Future of Retail event in London this week.

“Because it’s not just about the money,” she explained a day after Kingfisher reported a drop in half-year profits. “For years retailers have looked at like-for-like sales, and in this world… where you need to grow your digital sales, what does that mean? Nothing! It’s based on square metres.”

Yesterday, the retail group revealed B&Q had witnessed a 2.5% drop in half-year like-for-like sales, while Screwfix like-for-likes rose 4.5%. Group digital sales meanwhile increased one percentage point to 6%.

But Laury insisted that concentrating on these like-for-like figures is not going to help retailers survive the current difficult climate. Instead, retailers should be a bit more like Amazon and put their customer at the heart of everything they do.

Since Laury took over the CEO position at Kingfisher from Ian Cheshire back in 2015, she has been championing the retail group’s five-year digital transformation plan. And one of the key objectives of the plan is to ensure its brands, including B&Q and Screwfix, have a purpose.

“You have to be very clear about why you are doing this transformation,” she said, noting how the retailer’s customer research was focused on finding out not what customers want, but what they need.

“Home improvement is a nightmare for customers,” she explained. “Why should they go to those big shops, go in and spend three hours, then go back home and you always miss something and never do your work as you intended to.”

Laury said the business wanted to improve this experience, firstly by using its scale to make home improvement projects more affordable, and secondly to use digital to connect together every part of the customer journey.

“How can we be with the customer from the start to the end?” she asked.

She said for the transformation plan to work, everyone in the organisation must be looking at the same metric and measuring their success. “The challenge is to find out what are the few things – not many, few – that all the organisation from shop floor to head office will look at to measure their success.”

Meanwhile, referring to macro challenges including Brexit and inflation, Laury concluded: “When you are trying to lead a team, you either you focus on what you can’t do anything about or you focus on something you can, and I’ve chosen the second option.”