Essential retailer comms during COVID-19 crisis





Supporting B&Q with a clear communications strategy to help safely reopen stores during COVID-19  

B&Q initially closed all stores at the start of 2020’s first lockdown. Then, following a trial operating strict safety and social distancing measures at 14 stores, it gradually reopened all shops in early June.

As lead PR agency in the UK, we supported B&Q with a communications strategy that demonstrated how the brand was keeping colleagues and customers safe while meeting their obligations as one of the government’s essential retailers.

Initially, stores remained closed to customers whilst the business worked out how they could operate safely, and during this period a new contact-free car park collection service was launched to fulfill orders placed on Media relations played an important role in the communication of this interim service, and images were landed in national press to educate customers on the safety processes to expect when collecting their purchases.

Throughout the pandemic, B&Q urged customers to follow the Government’s social distancing guidelines and to shop responsibly for only what is necessary. In preparation for reopening, Perspex screens were installed at checkouts; PPE made available for colleagues; hand sanitiser stations introduced; and two metre floor markers placed throughout stores. The number of customers allowed in store at any one time was limited and all stores set up designated socially distanced queuing areas outside.

B&Q’s efforts didn’t stop with their stores. At the beginning of the outbreak, B&Q and sister company Screwfix, donated more than £300,000 worth of PPE to the NHS to help with the huge shortage across the country. The company also played an important part in local communities during the crisis, with plants and flowers donated to brighten up the gardens of hospices and care homes, and paint sent to help rejuvenate community spaces.

The safety of customers, colleagues and communities remained B&Q’s number one priority and this was the cornerstone of our communications strategy. We delivered a rigorous programme of media relations to keep media, and by extension their readers, updated throughout B&Q’s journey – ensuring our commitment to the safety of customers and colleagues, and our efforts in the community were heard with absolute clarity. This included:

  • In-store filming with the Press Association, Sky, ITV, and the BBC to capture safety measures in place, and customer and colleague reactions
  • Blanket coverage landed using a brand-led  ‘safety video’ that brought to life what socially distanced shopping would look like at B&Q
  • Hero-ing our amazing colleagues with features in the Daily Telegraph and inclusion in BBC One’s ‘One World: Together at Home’ special

As a result of the successful handling of the pandemic, T3 magazine named B&Q 2020’s ‘Retailer of the Year’; concluding that “the way [B&Q] has handled the current situation is nothing short of brilliant, and we don’t know where the UK would be without it. 

This was a 

Consumer PR

Project for B&Q

Learn more about Consumer PR

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