Don’t Panic

In an interview, Patrick Vandenbogaerde, Managing Director of Brico Belgium Group, explains how he wants to secure the position of market leader, even in difficult times.

For this regional report, let’s focus on the market leader of the Belgium DIY market. Especially since it’s a very fitting time: on the day of our interview, the new managing director has been in office for precisely 100 days – a period which is often used for initial observations and analyses, maybe even a more deeper reflection on the implementation of measures in an economic context in which industry results are more volatile. According to GfK namely, they were -8.6 per cent in March, or in contrast, +1 per cent in April.

Developments, trends, perspectives “Let’s have a closer look at the quarterly figures: with regard to the economic context and the moods of our industry, we are more dependent on the factor of inflation and on the export rate – two parameters which have a positive impact on a conclusive result. When looking to the future, in particular the uncertainty factor of weather puts a spoke in our wheels season after season. The only way of counteracting this

risk is to encourage larger DIY projects rather than ad hoc DIYing. The positioning of the product range in our retail brands Brio Plan-It, Brico, Brico City and the inner-city outlets is in line with this trend. At the end of April, Brico’s sales are clearly in the plus range, and even with 0.3 percent-age points more market share in an overall market which has grown by 0.1 per cent.”It’ll be all right on the night 

How can the position of marketleader be defended in an environment that has never been so competitive in an area in which the offer of DIY product ranges is omnipresent in other distribution channels? 

 “We promote the aspect of convenience”: Patrick Vandenbogaerde, Managing Director of Brico Belgium Group. “Above all, don’t panic or keep changing your mind. My role as the person responsible for breaking down Maxeda’s politics and strategy to Belgian conditions can be summarised in three key terms: focus, service and choice – a challenge which, at the same time, is both simple and complex to take on. The arrival of the category killers doesn’t unnerve me.

Take the example of a Kärcher pressure washer which was purchased from a discounter for the lowest price on the market. The consumer quickly notices that an essential attachment is missing and comes to our stores, because the product range and therefore also the choice is much greater. Incidentally, DIYing has never been more easily possible than it is today, and that is mainly thanks to YouTube. More than ever before,

Brico’s motto is to promote the aspect of convenience. Therefore we choose suppliers who suggest a wealth of solutions to us in this sense. Paradoxically, a large number of these suppliers deny any access to information about the profile and requirements of the customer in order to give the professional segment an advantage on the market. This should be discussed.” 

The factors of success

“In addition to this obsession of responding better to the requirements of the consumer, three more worries keep me on my toes: health, digitalisation and the economic climate. For example, take the extreme compulsion to insulate houses. Contrary to an approach in the sense of home improvement as “converting a house into a home”, it threatens to become more of a danger of “suffocation” between walls than the pleasure of breathing in deeply and living in a comfortable environment.

As far as ubiquitous trade and the breakthrough of cutting edge technology are concerned, I am very much in favour of proportionality between investment costs and efficiency. I make sure not to fall into the trap of spending a fortune alone on polishing the image of the brand, but rather equipping the stores with the instruments which enable them to maintain their position and fulfil their role.

And finally the economic climate: above all, I am primarily responsible for the well-being of more than 3 000 employees and by definition I am affected by the overall macroeconomic parameters which could have a harmful effect on their well-being and on our organisation. And last but not least, I am very aware of the fact that we are at the beginning of many transformations in our industry. We have to remain firmly in the saddle and encourage all of our stake-holders to reinvent the DIY business model. Creativity is the most powerful lever in this respect. An example: next to a whole number of Brico stores, there is also a Lunch Garden, that is to say a fast-food restaurant from this Belgian chain. The promotion ‘Vol au vent – frites gratuit‘ (vol-au-vents and free chips – editor’s note: a typical Belgian dish) depending on the amount on the till receipt at Brico was an enormous success.” S for success, V for victory: Essevee When he reads this interview, Patrick Vandenbogaerde will be celebrating his birthday in the colours of his favourite football club – red and green – and keeping the hope of a European dream alive (editor’s note: the sport club SV Zulte Waregem, nicknamed Essevee, which played in the 2018 Uefa Cup is meant here). However in contrast to the laws of sport, in the DIY and home improvement industry the main thing is always to win. Duralex, sed lex (the law is harsh but it is the law).


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