Retail Insider has held its latest event – combining a tutored Beer Tasting with Duncan Sambrook of Sambrook’s Brewery and a talk by Michael Durbridge, director of omni-channel at B&Q – that highlighted both the vibrancy of the UK beer scene and the opportunities for retailers from developing multi-channel propositions.

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Michael Durbridge, director of omni-channel at B&Q

Senior executives from John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Clarks, Majestic Wines and Monsoon Accessorize were among those gathered at The Parcel Yard at King’s Cross station to taste some interesting beers and hear the thoughts of Durbridge on multi-channel retail.

Durbridge began by highlighting how his earlier roles at both Vodafone and Phones 4U involved bringing various channels together and that the home improvement company wanted to utilise this expertise as it sought to make the move to having a stronger multi-channel proposition.

He is presently overseeing a serious overhaul to both the front and back ends at B&Q. Initially the web has been the focus with a £70 million investment, which touches all parts of the business and includes new customer and store ordering systems.

Whereas previously only 10% of employees on the shop floor were comfortable with placing orders on the system this has been completely turned around. It has been helped by the move to give all store employees smart-phones. “They all get them and they replace the old radio frequency guns that they used before. They love it,” says Durbridge.

At the back-end he found that, like most retailers, there were old legacy systems in place, which resulted in extreme complications when anything needed changing: “A simple customer-related system change would have required 30 to 50 system changes that might cost a significant amount of money and take time. Bold decisions were made to go with an upgrade.”

 

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Duncan Sambrook, founder of Sambrook’s Brewery and Glynn Davis, editor of Retail Innsider

Durbridge says all the Kingfisher operating companies globally are moving to one system and that there will be major cost savings ultimately accrued. On a long-term basis, therefore, the investment being made will be “good value”.

But getting all the companies to work together and agree to operate in a new way has been a challenge, he admits. This has now been overcome and the first 12 stores with the new front and back end systems are currently operational.

“The stores all had different routines and we had to bring them to the point of all implementing the same processes. We’ve initially been micromanaging things at these first 12 stores in these early stages,” says Durbridge.

The plan now is to undertake a full roll out across the organisation as he does not intend to have dual systems running for too long. This will then put the company in a strong position to deliver a better multi-channel experience to customers. Part of this involves the website being more than simply a transactional channel and for it to fully complement the stores.

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Durbridge’s talk was followed by a tutored beer tasting with Duncan Sambrook, founder of Sambrook’s Brewery (and Glynn Davis, editor of Retail Insider), running through the history of the beer styles of the five ales sampled along with tasting notes.

Beers from Sambrook’s, Fuller’s and East London Brewing Company were among those tasted and encompassed a broad range of styles from American Pale Ales to barley wines.

Retail Insider would very much like to thank Michael Durbridge and Duncan Sambrook, as well as the team at The Parcel Yard who helped make it a memorable evening. Also a very big thank-you goes to the sponsors PCMS GroupK3 Retail, Bond Dickinson, and ORESA. Without their much appreciated support this Retail Insider event would not have been possible.