Kingfisher announces changes at the top as full-year profit drops

Change has been the buzzword at DIY retail group Kingfisher over the last few years, and it is once again today (20 March) as the company announced a raft of senior management changes – including the imminent departure of CEO Véronique Laury.

Laury will be stepping down once her replacement is found, while Steve Willett, chief transformation, digital & IT officer, has decided to retire after nearly 20 years with the business.

In addition, John Wartig has been named interim chief financial officer, and he will replace Karen Witts on 8 April 2019.

The business is three years into a five-year transformation plan that aims to streamline the B&Q and Screwfix owner’s international operations, further digitise the organisation, and better connect its various divisions under Laury’s ‘One Kingfisher’ model, which so far is struggling to bear fruit in terms of significant sales, growth and profitability.

News of the changes at the top come on the same day Kingfisher announced full-year results for the 12 months to 31 January.

Total sales edged up by 0.3% in constant currency to £11.7 billion, but like-for-likes were down by 1.6%. The growth came from Screwfix in the UK, and Brico Dépôt in France and Poland, but it was offset by continued sluggish trading activity at B&Q in the UK and Castorama in France.

Underlying profit before tax was down by 13% to £693 million, with retail profit increases in the UK and Poland – divisions contributing to 56% of total sales – more than offset by weakness in Castorama France and losses in Russia and Romania.

Growth in eCommerce has been a continued highlight for the group in recent years, led by the departing Willett.

Over the course of the last year, Kingfisher has been rolling out a unified IT platform, which it said is now “substantially complete”, while its eCommerce initiatives reportedly continue to make good progress. Digital sales grew by 17% year-on-year, and now account for 6% of the group sales, double the level at the start of the transformation plan.

Click & collect has played a significant part in digital sales growth, with this form of transaction at B&Q up by 42% year on year, which the group attributed to the introduction of one-hour collection service in the previous financial year.

Despite the major upheaval, Kingfisher’s leadership team remain positive about the progress of the company’s transformation.

Laury said: “I have enjoyed leading the One Kingfisher team through the transformation to become the leading home improvement company.

“Leading the transformation has been so exciting but also very challenging. As the transformation approaches its final year, I believe it is right for someone else to lead the next phase of the One Kingfisher journey. I will continue to give 100% until the day I depart."

Andy Cosslett, chairman of the group, added: “Vero has been a powerful leader of the business and the driving force behind our plan to turn Kingfisher into a more unified and innovative business.

“This year will mark a transition in our transformation journey having now reached a critical mass. We are starting to see clear evidence emerging that we can create a powerful and differentiated home improvement experience for our customers which will convert to profitable growth going forward.”