Do-it-Yourself hyperstore, LEROY MERLIN has been growing steadily within Gauteng since opening their first branch in Greenstone in 2017. Recently they opened their fourth store in Fourways and we chatted to Brand and Customer Experience Leader, Claudia Krishna, about our initial experience of the store, what you can expect when visiting the store and plans for the future.
What makes this store different from the other stores?
There’s a couple of things which make these stores different, you’ll notice that we have many showrooms. These showrooms are there to inspire customers and to show them what products will work really well together.
There are also spaces to test products, something you don’t often find at other stores. We give customers areas to enjoy the home improvement experience. For example, if you go into the décor section, there are tables where you can lay out your chosen cushions or lampshade giving you an opportunity to see what it would look like before you purchase.
Another aspect that sets us apart is the workshop area. On average we have three workshops during the week and on Saturdays and Sundays. These workshops aim to give people a bit of a DIY confidence boost, often they have the will, but not the skill. It helps them to be more adventurous and to give them peace of mind that they won’t mess up their projects and waste their money.
Also, if you live in an apartment and don’t have the space or the equipment for your project, you can book a workshop area and a facilitator to assist you to complete your project. It’s really not just a commerce experience of selling and buying, we want to give people confidence and the skills to be able to do things for themselves.
When we walked through the store, we picked up an attention to detail, focussing on display and customer experience. What goes into setting up the store?
It does take a lot of planning, and it is intentional. Our intention is to replicate your home and give you a complete experience of testing the products in-store before you purchase. So, it’s not just a static tap on display, open it and water comes out so you’ll be able to see how far the water will splash and what happens to the sink when you use it. Switch on an oven or stove and it will work. When you open a cupboard, you’ll find stuff in the cupboard, showing you how to pack all of your products. We strive to give customers an intuitive experience, making their lives easier.
How long has it taken to get to the grand opening day?
If I have to tell you years, you won’t believe it. This was originally meant to be our first store. The idea for the store was born in 2012 but only materialized now in 2021. The delays were mostly owing to all the development in the area, and so Greenstone was the first store opening. Fourways is also going to be our headquarters, for the past four years we’ve been squatting at the Greenstone store!
We picked up on the spirit and positive energy of the staff, they just started clapping hands, cheering, chatting and were really excited. Is that part of the company culture?
Our company is really centred around people. If it’s not our customer, it’s our team, they are our partners. The thing that sets us apart from other retail employers is that from day one, our employees are permanent staff. They really buy into the value of being valued. At orientation they learn how this model was created and what our values are. Staff also get to share in the profits of the store. Another thing that we promote is autonomy. You are not just a salesperson on the floor, you have authority and power and we expect of them to make the best decisions for their customers. I think, that really gives them a sense of belonging.
How have the stores improved since opening the first store in Greenstone?
Before we open a store, we really immerse ourselves in that community. And by immerse, I mean we do a lot of home visits. During these visits we will chat to people about how they live in their home, ask questions like; How do you use your patio? How do you use your garage? What are the issues that you have? Is that something that happens a lot in this area? We then use all this information to tailor the store around that community.
As the stores progress we also learn and improve, and now our stores are based on the unique community and our experience. Our stores also progress as we adjust our products according to customers’ demands. Take as an example the Little Falls store that features a big craft area, as our customers there love to do crafts.
A new addition to the Fourways store is a florist, what other services do you offer?
When we opened Greenstone, we started with three services, key cutting, tool rentals and kitchen installation. Little Falls was the same. When we opened Boksburg, we added trailer rentals and landscaping services. At Fourways we added a Florist as we thought it would fit in well with our service offering.
Soon to arrive at Fourways is the monthly “Thrift Your Home Market” where you can book a table and sell your pre-loved home decor, tools, gardening products or DIYs to other LEROY MERLIN fans. The market already happens at the Greenstone and Little Falls stores and is a way to encourage recycling and upcycling in the community.
You’re known for your unique drive-thru yard, how has that been received?
The service is a drive-through self-service. iIn other words, you drive in, fetch your stuff and pay. Sometimes it is a foreign concept to customers, but once they get the hang of the self-service, they find it easy to do. People like it that they don’t need to come into the store. Another great aspect is that the yard is not this dark dingy place, just the opposite, it is light, organised and well-priced. It really makes for a different shopping experience.
We also see you’ve launched an app, what can you do with it?
We launched the app about two months ago. At first it was basically for online shopping, but we realised that there was a need for self-checkout instore, and now you can use your app for this. You can scan while you shop and as it has a limit of up to 10 products, it comes in handy to skip the queues at the tills.
You’ve got the online store that ships nationwide, are you planning any more physical stores?
The plan has always been to open the first four stores and then pause. We’ve opened a store every year for the last four years, so now as per our planning we will take some time to focus on our supply chain, the online store and to regroup.
In closing, on a personal note, which is your favourite department?
When I started with the company, I was the category manager for paint. I’ve worked in retail for over 15 years and paint has always been my passion. Everything about it, I get so excited when I have an opportunity to speak to customers about paint. I was even a little late for this meeting as I was helping a customer in the paint department. My heart is always there.
You can visit the new LEROY MERLIN store on the corner of Fourways Boulevard and Roos Street, Witkoppen, Sandton.
For more info, visit leroymerlin.co.za