While its Brico Dépôt and Castorama chains struggle in a volatile French market, Screwfix is proving to be the star performer at the Kingfisher Group. Like-for-like total Kingfisher sales fell by 0.7% in its last financial year and profits were down by 10% but the Screwfix business showed “double-digit” sales growth and its profits were up by 5%.
Founded in 1979 to sell screws by mail order, Screwfix now sells 18 million screws – and a great many other things – each week. The company launched its first website in 1999, the same year in which the business was acquired by Kingfisher. At the time its turnover was around £28 million: by 2016 it had exceeded £1 billion for the first time. The first Screwfix store opened in 2005 and the current total is now 599. “We’ve opened on average a new store every week for the past eight years,” says chief executive Graham Bell, “and we’re not planning to stop there”. According to the company, “97% of the UK population is within a 30 minute drive of a store”: impressive growth for what was, initially, a pure-play start-up.
From the beginning Screwfix has targeted trade customers – builders, plumbers, electricians and more – as well as serious DIYers, all of whom need supplies as quickly as possible and often outside conventional 9-to-5 trading hours. Its stores are typically open from 6am to 10pm on weekdays – 7am–6pm on Saturday and 9am–4pm on Sunday; the call centre is accessible 24/7, while click-and-collect orders are often available within minutes. Customer focus is central to its strategy. As Graham Bell says: “Our proposition is all about responding to their needs – providing our customers with incredible convenience, great products and value for money.”
Its website lists around 25,000 products with 11,500 available in stores, while its Quickshop app allows customers to build an order on their smartphones and then generate a QR code which can be scanned at the till-point in store.
Screwfix also supports its target market with online community forums where tradespeople can discuss technical issues or DIYers find answers to problems, It has trade-only sites for plumbers and electricians (Plumbfix and Electricfix), and a trade account scheme offering 60-days free credit – all services which encourage loyalty to the brand. There is also the Screwfix Trade Pulse – a regular survey of working levels and optimism among its trade customers: the latest reports high levels of confidence with 85% of tradespeople surveyed having work lined up beyond their current projects.
Adding to the customer experience is Screwfix’s “Britain’s Top Tradespeople” competition, launched in 2009; this year it attracted 3,000 entrants and the 2018 winner, carpenter Stuart Roache, drove away a Mitsubishi pick-up truck, worth £33,000 as his prize.
Clear focus on its niche market with a good understanding of its target customers, has proved a winning strategy for Screwfix: small wonder it is one of the UK’s fastest growing retail companies, doubling in size in the last five years.