Kingfisher has been playing its own version of musical chairs in recent times with executives moving fluidly between its various arms.
This time its Screwfix chief executive Graham Bell that has ended up in a new seat when the music stopped. Bell, who has already held a number of senior roles at B&Q, will succeed Christian Mazauric as its new UK and Ireland boss from the start of October with Mazauric returning to France to lead Kingfisher’s French business.
As a veteran of the DIY sector, Bell will be under no illusions about the size of the challenge he will face. The DIY market is one of the toughest places to be at the moment, not helped by the harsh weather in Q1 which battered the UK during the vital Easter period and dampened demand for BBQs and parasols.
The travails of Homebase and Wickes have been well-publicised and have contributed to B&Q, in comparison, looking in reasonably healthy shape. The summer heatwave helped bolster Q2 revenues (up 3.9%), while Screwfix did even better under Bell’s leadership (up 11.8%). Yet the threat of a sustained period of poor weather looms constantly over DIY retailers, and coupled with a tightening of consumers’ belts means they have to be managed exceptionally well in order to keep on growing.
It makes sense, therefore, that part of Kingfisher boss Véronique Laury’s plans for a fully integrated business include promoting from within and moving experienced retail executives between the different Kingfisher fascias to balance continuity with a fresh pair of eyes. Screwfix has performed well under Bell and he can be expected to bring the same level of operational skill and market knowledge to this new, bigger role.
Another executive moving chairs is John Mewett who will take over from Bell in the Screwfix hotseat. As with Bell, Mewett has accumulated a strong bank of experience with the brand he is joining having previously spent eight years as Screwfix marketing and IT director prior to his current role as Kingfisher group digital director. Both he and Bell are “proven operators”, to borrow Laury’s words, and will offer stable, insightful leadership at a time when Kingfisher needs it the most.