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B&Q axes in-store DIY classes

B&Q workshops

Liz Morrell visits a B&Q class for Retail Week.

Earlier this week I got plastered at B&Q. Literally. And I wasn’t the only one. There were six of us, five of whom were women. All were plastering virgins and all attending the last ever You Can Do It plastering class at B&Q in Bristol’s Cribbs Causeway store.

The three-hour class was part of the retailer’s You Can Do it Initiative –first introduced in 2010 and since rolled out to 16 stores across the portfolio that saw both kids and adult classes held in store to teach young and old DIY skills that in today’s flatpack age are far too easily forgotten. They even hold children’s parties. And the best part is that they are completely free if you are signed up to B&Q’s loyalty scheme and only £5 if not.

But two weeks ago B&Q confirmed to staff in stores across the country the decision to close the 16 in-store centres. Staff were devastated, customers disappointed and an online petition was even set up on to campaign against the decision.

B&Q claims that times are changing and that its resources are better spent supporting customers “in the community” and with further online tutorials and videos that customers can play, pause and rewind while in the very middle of the job they are attempting.

It cites Google figures that show that 900,000 searches a month are now made for help with home improvement – treble that of three years ago. The company has a wealth of buyers’ guides, how-to guides and videos as well as help and advice on social media and plans to ramp this up significantly.

“The YCDI classes have proven invaluable in developing our understanding of how customers seek help and advice and building on these learnings we will be investing in new how-to videos to reach far more customers,” says a spokesperson for B&Q.

My point, however, is that the decision misses one vital element of the You Can Do It initiative – that it actually gave normal people like me the impetus to have a go, while the store tour after – where products were explained in detail – allowed us to have the confidence to think we really could do it, especially in the area of DIY, a market dominated by males.

My seven-year old Mickey was the last child to have a birthday party at the B&Q Bristol You Can Do It centre, designing, sawing, putting together and painting a toy aeroplane. He and his friends loved it and in an age where children’s lives are dominated by technology rather than traditional skills it was a joy to see. The classes created theatre, confidence and a true loyalty to the brand and were something that many of the customers I spoke to said they would happily have paid for.

Other retailers also followed B&Q’s lead with Hobbycraft, for example, holding classes in store – some paid for and some free – that, like B&Q, give customers the confidence to try something new.

Of course, online videos are helpful and reach a wider audience than a few classes can but I will be sad to see the You Can Do It centres close – despite B&Q’s insistence that the stores involved will be engaging with local communities still. For a company that has supposedly been trying to tell consumers You Can Do It to leave customers to do it themselves seems a real shame.

Liz Morrell is a freelance journalist specialising in retail.

Source : Liz Morrell - Retail Week

02 May 2015

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