'How the B&Q youth board transformed the retailer's thinking'

August 17, 2012

Tuesday 31st July saw the culmination of the B&Q’s Youth Board Project, with a final presentation to Ellen MacArthur and Jamie Butterworth of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, senior executives of B&Q and Ian Cheshire, Chief Executive of Kingfisher.

The project was launched in September 2011 following a nationwide search for nine young people, who would form the company’s first ever Youth Board. The successful applicants took up their positions for one year, with each seat corresponding to a position on B&Q’s full board. These new members were given the challenge to re-think and re-design B&Q’s business model for a future of volatile energy and resource prices and growing population. To complete their research, they were given unprecedented access to the inner workings of the company, and found lots of potential for redesign, through the framework of a circular economy.

The Board’s final presentation attracted attention from industry magazine Retail Week, although journalists were not able to attend the presentation itself. CEO Martyn Phillips explained that this was due to the confidential nature of the research, and the fact that B&Q intend to take the findings even further within the business:

“It’s partly an obligation because of the quality of the work, but it [the need to think of retail in the future] is also our reality. It’s our duty to keep pushing.”

The presentation offered an in depth explanation of how B&Q might make the transition towards a circular economy, with a focus on the processes, supply chain changes, and marketing strategies that would need to be implemented.

“They drew in examples from a whole range of different businesses and sectors,” explains Phillips. “They didn’t just explore what’s going on in home improvement or what other retailers are doing, they drew on what businesses such as Netflix were doing.”

The final presentation combined the creative thinking that B&Q had sought when first commencing the Youth Board project, with critical thinking and comprehensive study that reinforced the credibility of the work.

Carys Jones-Williams, Marketing Director of the Youth Board, explained how starting with high aspirations enabled them to completely re-think B&Q’s business model: “I don’t think they should rethink, they should start from scratch. There is no harm in finding out whether there’s another way to do things.”

Ellen MacArthur echoed these thoughts following the final:

They thought about the whole way retail can function in the future. The circular economy is about redesigning the whole system from the outset and these guys applied that to retail. It affects product design, different business models, marketing and the consumer experience – the whole lot. So it’s a big-picture redesign of the system.

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