Covid-19: Wickes and Toolstation stores operating as mini warehouses

DIY retailers Wickes and Toolstation branches have been acting as fulfilment centres for transactions completed via digital channels during the Covid-19 coronavirus crisis, according to parent company Travis Perkins.

In a trading update provided today (28 April), the building materials group said the consumer retail businesses within its portfolio were operating their stores as mini warehouses, providing supplies for home delivery, or for click & collect. This is in addition to its dedicated fulfiment centres across the UK.

Wickes and Toolstation both closed their stores to the public as the virus escalated in the UK, although they are classified as ‘essential’ retailers by the government so they are permitted to open their doors if they felt they could do so safely. Indeed, competitors B&Q and Homebase, which both closed their stores to the public, are now opening some of their estate with additional social distancing measures in place.

By using their physical premises as dark stores to serve online-only orders, Wickes and Toolstation are among a group of businesses adopting this format, including drinks retailer Majestic Wine, bookseller Blackwell’s, and fashion brand Levi’s. Demand for goods at the DIY retailers has resulted in online queuing systems being put in place, at times.

Travis Perkins said the Wickes kitchen & bathroom design and installation service, which usually contributes around a third of Wickes sales, remains closed, contributing to a significant dip in year-on-year group revenue. For the first three weeks of April, Travis Perkins' revenue represented approximately one-third of what it generated in the same period in 2019.

That said, revenue at Wickes and Toolstation has reportedly continued to improve week by week, with Travis Perkins saying the businesses have responded “at pace to the changing nature of the trading environment”. This has involved “reconfiguring to significantly increase the capability of distribution networks to cope with the high levels of consumer demand”.

Travis Perkins is beginning to reopen some of its merchanting stores, which also closed at the onset of the health crisis, but unlike B&Q and Homebase, there is no stated plan for the reopening of Wickes and Toolstation shops for non-online shoppers. That could change in the coming weeks.