Our purpose as a business is to help trade customers achieve exceptional results for their customers, and to profit from doing so. We believe the best way to source and install a kitchen is to work with a local tradesperson, and we are clear that the future success of our business lies in serving the trade market to the highest standards.
Our depots build strong local relationships with their customers and have the autonomy and trade quality in-stock products to provide a high level of service. Depots are located where our customers need them, with a typical Howdens depot being in an edge-of-town location - this is more convenient for our customers and cheaper for us to rent. In 2020 around 85% of our UK customers lived within 5 miles of a Howdens depot.
Our decentralised business model empowers local depot managers to build trusted trade-only relationships and we help our trade customers succeed in selling to their customers in the following ways:
In 2021, we opened 31 new depots, up from the 16 opened in 2020.One of our strategic objectives is to increase trade convenience and grow our market share by reaching more builders. We know that adding a new depot near to an existing one sees overall sales increase and we continue to see scope for 950 depots in the UK, including c.25 in Northern Ireland, and we plan to open around 25 new depots in 2022.
We are opening all new depots in an updated format to use space more efficiently and to provide the best environment in which to do business.
We have also continued with our revamp programme for existing depots, concentrating on our older estate where the largest incremental sales uplifts are expected. The programme is delivering additional sales and has received very positive feedback from depots and customers.
During the year, including relocations, we reformatted a total of 62 depots, taking the total number of revamped depots to 103 at the year-end.
The scale and scope of the revamps has been refined, with an average cost per depot of circa £225,000 going forward with an average payback of less than 4 years.
Including relocations, we plan to reformat around 70 more depots in 2022 and to re-rack the warehouses of a further 35sites without other modifications at that time.
At the end of 2021, we had 210 UK depots trading in the updated format and we expect to end 2022 with around 305, having also re-racked the warehouses of a further 133 depots without other modifications. By the end of 2022, such depots, in aggregate, will represent around 55% of our UK estate.
We believe appreciation of the advantages of our trade-only, in-stock model with our high service levels and competitive pricing is growing and our account base grew by 37% in 2021.
We opened 10 depots in France in 2021, ending the year with a total of 40 in France and Belgium and we plan to expand our footprint to 60 depots by the end of 2022, 40 being located in the Paris area.In 2022, we will also be opening for business in the Republic of Ireland. As in France we will be using a “city-based” approach which fits the population distribution of the region. Initially we will test the model with 5 depots around Dublin, and we expect all of these to be open by June 2022. The depot teams will be supported by our UK infrastructure and the Group’s digital platform.