Resilience as a lever to face the current economic situation

Monthly inflation data in Western Europe is not particularly encouraging, and all the more so for the DIY sector.

The current harmonised inflation rate in Europe (HICP Europe), the index that measures the average consumption of goods and services, is now 8.5%.

On average, this means that there are peaks such as in Belgium (9.93%), the Netherlands (10.17%), Spain (10.2%) and the UK (9.03%). Such figures have not occurred in the last 40 years. Unfortunately, several financial experts are not predicting much improvement in the coming months: inflation will continue to climb in the short term.

From Spain to Germany, retailers are complaining about the footfall and the price ticket spending per customer. The reasons for this includes consumers anticipating their energy bills, which will soon be available. With the traditional holiday period in Europe approaching for many, the domestic DIY budget is being reconsidered because priorities need to be set. Priorities for the dream projects for various home improvement versus the dreams to travel?

Repeated promotional campaigns are therefore no longer the most appropriate tactic to attract customers to the DIY store. On the contrary, such campaigns not only jeopardise the margins – they cause even more reluctance because people feel cheated week after week. On the pathway of the pandemic recovery and the challenges of the current geopolitical situation in Europe, how can retailers and suppliers exit this negative spiral?

Excellent example of resilience in France

One answer to this key question is to surprise customers during each store visit, with the knowledge that, on average in Europe, customers visit DIY stores less than six times a year. Are retailers and suppliers demonstrating resilience?

In this hopefully post pandemic era, France’s number three retail DIY chain Bricomarché,, part of the ITM Group, demonstrates its resilience by resolutely investing in a renewed store concept for a fully focussed customer experience.

The new appointed general manager for ITM Group, David Collas, immediately shared a strong message, when times get tough, it seems more than appropriate to make investments to attract and surprise customers.

A leading network of local and independent retailers, ITM Equipement de la Maison, is launching its NCE concept, “New Customer Experience”. This omnichannel concept, with new innovative services and a focus on personalised support, aims to inspire, guide and accompany customers towards the final implementation of their projects.

The NCE concept will be available in several formats and will, in a first stage, redefine the positioning of the Bricomarché and Bricorama store brands in response to renewed consumer expectations.

ITM Equipement de la Maison, the Home Improvement division of the Mousquetaires Group (four store brands: Bricomarché, Bricorama, Batkot, Bricocash), is reinventing itself with its new NCE concept, which will be deployed in three formats, putting the focus on new services and innovative solutions, adapted to each trading area.

The new store concept of Bricomarché

Bricomarche in the outskirts of Pau, France

Bricomarché (market share of 14% – total turnover of €3.4 billion) opted for Serres-Castets, a location on the outskirts of the city of Pau (close to the airport), in order to set up this concept store format that may well serve as a leading model for the GSB (Grande Superficie de Bricolage – Big DIY surface store) of the future.

Management represented by Aurore and Franck Primon beamed with pride at the opening two months ago of this pioneering concept of over 3,800m² with which ‘The Musketeers’ have surprised not only its customers, but for sure also its competitors.

The entrance hall immediately catches the eye with its particularly broad structure giving customers a panoramic view over the central interior space of 2,400m², which is divided into several sections: ‘Ici on jardine’ (here we garden) – ‘Ici on bricole’ (here we DIY) – ‘Ici on décore’ (here we decorate) -‘Ici on aménage’ (here we install) – ‘Ici on batti’ (here we build) – ‘Ici on nettoie’ (here we clean). These sections form a dynamic link for a logical project orientation in the customer’s mind based on the belief that the focus is first put on providing ideas and then offering the means and solutions (from project orientation to project support).

Bricorama Entrance in Orgeval, west of Paris.

The painting and decoration sections are the beating heart of the store. You can hardly miss it, also thanks to the interplay of a striking colour wall and the small subsidiary aisles that are arranged in an attractive, symmetrical manner, with eye-catching aisle gondolas. Last but not least: in this store, brands are in the driver’s seat in an era where retailers might rather prefer to position private labels: quite encouraging to experience.

The store concept also includes an attractive 600m² half-open outdoor structure.

Store signage with a touch of humour

A striking feature of the store signage is the personal style of address that can be read on the eco-friendly panels (reusable cardboard): ‘My garden, My bathroom’; and above all the humorous messages such as the floor marking in the decoration department ‘Watch out, freshly painted…’ It sounds rather naive, but that is certainly not the case: the shopping experience is quite funny, communicative, interactive and very informative. There is no doubt that this atypical signage puts a lot of smiles on customer`s faces.

Not afraid of the market leaders

This pilot store in Pau, partly thanks to the smart insights of Laurent Pussat, Director of Customer Experience, demonstrates that they are ready for all future competition.

It’s encouraging to see how some retailers remain resilient in times of general consumer reluctance while dynamics are in motion which for sure will have a huge influence on the way DIY retail will recover from all these crises.

Pilot store for larger formats

Earlier this year, west of Paris, ITM also opened a pilot store for its larger formats: Bricorama, in the city of Orgeval, equipped with the NCE concept on a total surface close to 10.000m², with an unprecedented range of services.

The store reception area is a service point that offers an extended range of services (click & collect, home delivery, home fitting, DIY workshops, home assistance, car rental, etc.). Among the concept’s innovations, a ‘guide advisor’ at the entrance directs customers according to their project, supported by digital customer services (3D projects, advice on sustainable DIY, search screens,) to facilitate the purchasing process and make it efficient.

Bricorama Plumbing Department

With the new large format NCE concept, everything has been designed to facilitate the accessibility of the total product range, with almost 60,000 references (SKUs) available – and all the services customers need to carry out their project and make it a success. Bricorama Orgeval offers showrooms, project areas, partnerships with craftsmen, a space dedicated to sharing know-how called La Fabrique, made-to-measure decoration and support for energy renovation projects with their partner Cosynergy.

This large format outlet in Orgeval, mainly targets “project customers”, while the Bricomarché store concept, has been designed to meet all the needs of customers for the maintenance and improvement of their homes.

The new concept challenges the Bricorama employees to develop their skills, be more versatile and take on renewed advisory roles.

It responds to the new consumption patterns of customers who need both proximity and omnichannel availability. For that reason, the staff are equipped with mobiles and notebooks, a digital support that especially younger customers appreciate.

Both stores in Pau and Orgeval require an increase in skills; by definition, teams need to be trained, more than ever before, in handyman competences and services in order to meet the expectations of the new modes of DIY activity. The online business obviously remains an important part of this new concept. It is illustrated by the availability of digital tools that allow the customer, at any time, to project themselves from the sofa into the DIY store

Resilience: a perfect cocktail for renewed collaboration

Both Bricomarche in Pau and Bricorama in Orgeval are more than inspiring for all European retailers and suppliers in search of the pathway to halt the effect of that negative spiral of inflation.

Bricomarche Garden Centre Display

This is a great opportunity for suppliers to propose collaborative models to accelerate this process of knowledge and skills transfer instore, for instance by organising workshops for employees and for customers. Some standards and rules may remain for ever. This said, several parameters, including climate change – which affects the classic product offer in gardening e.g. – invite us to leave the classic paths and to consider revolutionary out-of-the box thinking.

Disruption starts with the refusal to undergo a crisis. Retailers and suppliers should both reinvent their future whilst accepting that customer-centricity will determine who will survive or go under in the next crisis. As a final consideration, even though these French case studies illustrate how resilient DIY retailing needs to be, they both invite retailers to put more emphasis on providing extended service instore and that consideration opens the path to renewed collaboration between retailers and suppliers.