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Kingfisher: When Do-It-Yourself Doesn't Pay Off!

Did they take advice before they launched B&Q stores in China? If they paid for it they should ask for their money back.

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AP

Middle class Chinese don't do DIY. In fact most Chinese have a serious aversion to manual labor. They all (in my experience) have aspirations and are happy to work hard to achieve their goals - but, the division between white and blue collar work is a determinant of status. And manual work is done by inexpensive laborers without the education or inclination to advance themselves.

Let me take the risk of casting a whole nation with the kind of sweeping generalizations I abhor. There is still a very real connection in China with a poorer past than any westerner could imagine. In fact a large part of the population is still struggling every day for a good living.

Into this cultural environment Kingfisher adopted an aggressive store-opening program. The best they could have hoped for was that Chinese tradesman would start buying materials from the new stores. It didn't happen and now some of these stores are going to be closed.

It is one more in a long (and growing) line of examples of Western companies launching themselves into the Middle Kingdom with poor strategies. If Kingfisher thought its furnishing lines would sell then it was optimistic. This is a country that believes higher prices equal quality and style. Again, this does not play to B&Q's strengths.

The time may come when DIY becomes a fashionable or desirable pursuit for china's middle classes - but that time has yet to arrive. For reasons of status and cheapness of labor china's DIY boom is still some way off.

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