DIY RETAILER WOODIE’S is revamping almost all of its stores as part of an Apple-inspired campaign to put “love” and “emotion” into the business.
Speaking today at Retail Excellence Ireland’s annual ‘retail retreat’, Woodie’s chief executive Declan Ronayne revealed that the Grafton Group-owned outfit will complete renovations of 27 of its 35 outlets by the end of this year.
As part of the makeover, the retailer plans to introduce “softer”, more approachable features to its stores such as lower shelving units.
“We reject the notion of high racking (shelves). Within our competitive sector, we see a lot of high racking,” Ronayne said.
“If you look at our gardening business, you’ll see that we like the idea of actually seeing our customers. We believe if you see your customers, you’ve got a better chance of serving.”
Woodie’s also plans to introduce ‘friendlier’ features such as replacing its entrance and exit signs with the words ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ following a 12-month long re-branding exercise as the company celebrates its 30th year in operation.
The company has also planned to change how it targets different consumer types, like rejigging the way it sells to female shoppers.
“I made the point in our business that men buy white and magnolia paint. Women buy paint. You have to set yourself up in a way that’s comfortable for women to shop,” Ronayne told the conference, demonstrating a lower-shelved Dulux paint station.
The Woodie’s boss said the retailer has watched how the likes of tech giant Apple and luxury retailer Avoca turned their retail estate into more of an ‘experience’ and destination.
“We take inspiration from Apple, the retailer with the highest turnover per square foot in the entire world. What has Apple got in its stores? Nothing, except an experience,” Ronayne said.
He said the renovation programme will distinguish Woodie’s from its main competitors, like B&Q and Homebase, and realign it with independent retailers.
“There’s not a lot of emotion in DIY retail, but we think it’s a highly, highly emotional place … (The home) is where you live and where you love. We think we’re in the love place.”
As well as introducing changes to its in-store experience, Woodie’s has invested in a number of projects to help improve relations with its 1,400 staff.
Citing statistics collated by research firm Great Place to Work, Ronayne showed that just 39% of Woodie’s workforce said the DIY chain was a great place to work in 2014. That figure jumped to 65% last year.
To drive that leap, the company invested in add-ons like €25,000-a-year employee recognition service Kudos, which allows managers and peers to give each other a pat on the back using a Whatsapp-style platform.
The retailer has also invested in a training programme on wheels and brought a roadshow bus to each of its stores to teach workers about different products on the shop floor.
Ronayne said such measures are particularly appreciated by its older workers, many of whom left school early. He described elderly Woodie’s staff – particularly those in their 70s – as “gold dust”.
“It really suits our business (to have have older workers). You’re going to buy from your grandad, particularly in our business.”