If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. Kingfisher’s new chief executive Veronique Laury dusted off her dictionary of quotations yesterday, picking this one from Henry Ford to make the tenuous link that just as Ford gave middle-class Americans a car, the DIY chain will give consumers “what they need rather than what than what they think they need”.
Presenting her first set of annual results, Laury brought a breath of fresh air – or rather a coat of fresh paint – to the company, eager make her mark and set out her vision.
Her philosophy revolves around this idea, firstly, of meeting customers needs before they are even aware of them – like Ford’s car or Steve Jobs’ Mac – and second that those needs are virtually the same across all markets. (She points to photos of different bathrooms and dares us to guess which country each is from.)
Therefore, her main aim over the next few years will be creating this “united Kingfisher” – the Apple, Zara or Starbucks of DIY – by selling more of the same products in each market, training staff the same way and creating standardised store formats. The goal being that by unifying activities the company will be simpler and save costs.
It all sounds promising but the question is, how long will it take to deliver this root and branch approach and will investors be patient? By being universal, will Kingfisher alienate local customers? Just four months into the job, Laury has time on her side and, she hopes, a wave of Starbucks drinkers just waiting to get stuck into some DIY.