Magazine article Management Today

Company Vitae: Kingfisher

Magazine article Management Today

Company Vitae: Kingfisher

Article excerpt

The owner of B&Q, Screwfix and Castorama turns 30 this year and is Europe's largest home improvement retailer.

Here's how it first got bitten by the DIY bug.

Formative years

Although many of its constituent brands are older, Kingfisher itself is a fairly recent construct, emerging from the post-industrial gloom of 1982 Britain. Initially called Woolworths Holdings, it was created by the buyout of the British end of the US Woolworths. Led by retail legend Geoff Mulcahy, it went on a high street spending spree, snapping up B&Q, Comet and Superdrug in the 1980s, plus Screwfix and France's Castorama in the 1990s, which created a diverse if unfocused retail giant. B&Q was founded in Southampton in 1969, the same year as Castorama, which is based near the Franco-Belgian border in Templemars.

Recent history

Like many firms that began life in a recession, Kingfisher has been doing rather well by the standards of the punchdrunk UK high street It's Europe's largest home improvement chain and the third largest in the world, with sales of pounds 10.8bn (half from outside the UK) and pre-tax profit up 20% to pounds 807m. A few years ago, things weren't so rosy - in 1999 the group overreached itself to bid for Asda and was bested by Wal-Mart. Coupled with a cross-channel battle for control of Castorama, this put Kingfisher's share price under pressure and first Woolworths and then Comet were sold off to pacify investors. However, that may have been for the best, as neither business has prospered since. …

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