Thu, Oct 05, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Interview: DIY chain B&Q opens online store

DIY home improvement giant B&Q International Co yesterday launched its first online store outside the UK -- its 22nd in Taiwan -- to tap into the country's large number of Internet users. General manager Mariusz Gliwinski sat down with "Taipei Times"reporter Jackie Lin yesterday to share his vision for the company's new Internet model as well as his store expansion plans

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Taipei Times: Do-it-yourself (DIY) furnishing stores are traditionally the places customers go to sample and purchase the furnishing items and installation services they want. Why would you decide to go virtual?

Mariusz Gliwinski: Customers always like to surf the Web before they make a decision. It's not just a commercial enterprise; it's also about enhancing the customer experience, teaching the customers how to shop and supporting the existing stores.

We're going to enhance the Web page in the future. And you'll be able, for example, to sign up for the visits of consultants who actually will do the design of the project at your home.

TT: Does the online shop offer different products?

Gliwinski: There will be definitely a different product mix. The majority will be simple products to buy and pick up because that's the nature of the Web. Mainly the things sold [online] come from tools, power tools and electric products. We also put items like paints [online], which we know from our experience internationally that they're good products for the Web.

Furniture is also available on the Web but you will not be able to buy a kitchen, because kitchens require design and measurements. However, what we're going to provide in the future is that you will see the choices of the kitchen at B&Q, then you can sign up through the Internet and the consultants will call you back to organize an appointment with you to design your kitchen.

TT: Is this the very first Internet store for B&Q?

Gliwinski: No, we've got an online store in the UK. We learned how they do the business. However, Taiwan is different. For example, in the UK, almost 60 percent of the products come from kitchen and bathroom, which are installed by the customers in the UK. They do it by themselves. But in Taiwan, customers prefer kitchens and bathrooms to be installed for them. Therefore we can provide the service and our people will contact you through the Web and do the design for you.

An additional thing we'd like to introduce in the future is functionality. If you have a problem with, for example, painting, you can go on the Web, ask our employees, describe your problem and they can reply to you on how you can deal with your problem.

Therefore, functionality in the future will incorporate three aspects: sales, services [installation and design] and know-how [providing simple advice], so that we can link our customers with our employees.

TT: Vice general manager Winnie Teng (鄧文薏) said earlier that the firm predicts the virtual store will take in NT$40 million [US$1.2 million] in sales in the first year. How does that compare with other stores?

Gliwinski: We don't have very high expectations for the online store in terms of sales, as this is an important tool for us to maintain communications with our customers and to let them browse our product selection before they go to the store. I believe this helps them to actually make a decision in the store.

TT: An advantage for online business is that costs are greatly reduced. Will you provide bigger discounts on the Web?

Gliwinski: I'm a home improvement retailer, not an e-commerce retailer. We believe our Internet operations should be consistent with our existing stores and that's why people should pay the same prices.

Customers visiting the online store don't need to bother to go to the store. If they purchase more than NT$2,000 [in goods], the shipment will be free of charge.

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