Véronique Laury, the chief executive of Kingfisher, will leave the business that owns KBB shed B&Q in the UK, as the struggling DIY firm said it would consider axing 15 “poor performing” B&Q stores across the business.
No date was given for Laury’s departure, but the firm said it was actively looking for her replacement. Until then, Laury will continue with her responsibilities.
She said that leading the ONE Kingfisher transformation strategy, which is in its third year, was “very challenging” but also “exciting” and said that it was “right for someone else to lead the next phase” of the turnaround plan.
The announcement came after the group posted a 13% decline in underlying pre-tax profit to £693 million for the 12-month period to January 21, but taking into account the cost of closing stores, actual pre-tax profit slumped, down almost 60%.
Total sales at B&Q slid, down 2.8% to £3.4 billion, while sales at existing stores – or like-for-like sales – declined by 3%, with falling showroom sales mostly to blame.
In November last year, Kingfisher said it would be exiting Russia, Spain and Portugal to concentrate on its “main markets” and in its results announcement earlier in the week, the group said it would shut all 19 of its Screwfix stores in Germany.
It said its priorities in 2019 would be to continue to invest in its ONE plan, which is expected to cost an estimated £800m over the five-year period to 2021.
The plan involves establishing a single buying organisation for the group, implementing a unified IT infrastructure and developing the firm’s e-commerce capabilities.
Kingfisher said the plan was delivering in line with expectation, but that had been so far “outweighed” by weakness in the base business.
The firm said the discontinuation of installations affected like-for-like sales by an estimated 2% in the second half of the year and by about 1% in the full year.
“Much of our focus over the past three years has been on building an ‘engine’ to deliver a superior customer proposition and the agility to succeed in the new retail environment,” said Laury.
“Our customers are starting to benefit from differentiated product, in-store and online, at everyday low prices.
“Over the next year we will be accelerating our unique product activity and making our innovation more visible to customers, including testing new store concepts.”
Commenting on Laury’s departure, Andy Cosslett, Kingfisher chairman, said: “Vero has been a powerful leader of the business and the driving force behind our plan to turn Kingfisher into a more unified and innovative business.
“This year will mark a transition in our transformation journey having now reached a critical mass. We are starting to see clear evidence emerging that we can create a powerful and differentiated home-improvement experience for our customers, which will convert to profitable growth going forward.
“We are now moving into a new phase where we can extract more of the benefits resulting from the hard work that has been put in, and it is therefore timely that we commence a succession process.
“Vero has brought great vision to the business and I would like to take this opportunity to thank her for all of her hard work and passion, and for her ongoing commitment to transforming Kingfisher into a business with a stronger foundation for sustainable growth.”