Published on 18 - April - 2012
UPDATE: Social housing B&Q vouchers leaving DIY SMEs out in the coldThe DIY retailer has recently been in the spotlight for a deal which saw social housing tenants in South Shields given vouchers only valid at a B&Q superstore, described as "grossly unfair" by neighbouring independent DIY traders.
B&Q's involvement with social housing tenants is not isolated to South Tyneside. Schemes in Manchester, Swansea, Leeds, Stoke-on-Trent and Kirklees also involve tenants being given vouchers solely for use at B&Q, excluding all other DIY retail trade. The Tenant Cashback scheme, introduced last year as a means for smaller traders to make more money, has also recently backed deals favouring exclusivity at B&Q.
It's the councils rather than the retail giant who have come under fire for the schemes, as news of a hefty discount incentive for those housing providers who sign up came to light.
DIY Week has been told South Tyneside council is receiving a 13.5% discount from B&Q as part of the deal, amounting to around £53,000. B&Q has not yet confirmed how many other social housing providers hold accounts with it.
Walter and Kath Metcalfe of independent DIY store Metcalfe's Home Décor used to get a lot of trade from social housing tenants who had been provided with earlier versions of the home improvement vouchers, once valid at any DIY store.
"When the trade dried up we enquired with the council," Mrs Metcalfe told DIY Week. "We were told that the vouchers are only usable at B&Q.
"The Decent Homes people [at South Tyneside council] told us that we wouldn't be able to handle the volume of the sales we'd get if the voucher was extended to us, because it would be too overwhelming and then when it dried up we'd be left struggling.
"They said we weren't big enough to take on all the customers. My husband asked them if they'd ever been in our shop and they said no."
A meeting is scheduled to take place tomorrow (April 19) between members of the social housing group, B&Q and Walter Metcalfe to discuss expanding the voucher scheme.
B&Q told DIY Week in an earlier statement that it "welcomed the review" of the Decent Homes scheme in South Shields.
For more details on this story, see the April 20 magazine edition of DIY Week.
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