Hackerspace Architect: Big Box Stores
Yesterday I wrote about the big head, or more exactly the hackerspace movement needing a sort of Starbucks. This was met with lots of people reminding me about TechShop and because TechShop failed and because the CEO of TechShop said for profit Makerspaces was not possible, they’re not possible.
My request to consider Starbucks and what it’s done for independent coffee shops was much more about considering how a popular mass market makerspace would, hypothetically, improve interest in ALL such spaces. Of course, as many have pointed out, it’s uncertain if there is a demand for such spaces and an interest in them. That is of course a matter of our culture, where we are very happy little consumers topping land fill up constantly with packaging and discarded stuff we’ve purchased. In that landscape, where is the room for crafts, making and invention? However, who knows what 50 years will bring? A fundamental change in attitude perhaps? It’s refreshing for me to see those who are protesting to raise the concern to address climate change, a new popular movement primarily of younger people. I’ve seen the same from the USA with gun reform. My apathetic generation (Gen X) hardly protested anything in its youth and hardly on a popular basis. It was a benign period of dull centrist politics, housing market growth and the rise of technology and consumerism. It can not continue for ever, and assuming we don’t disappear in a big fire ball then we’ll have to continue our lives with a new approach. Finding way to use the resources to hand, probably those from the age of consumerism with truly NEW stuff being very very expensive? That’s straying into the world of science fantasy of course, but our kind face oblivion in just a few generations if we continue with our avarice.
So lets consider Big Box Stores, by which I mean B&Q, Wicks and Homebase as the ones I can think of that still more or less exist. B&Q being similar to Home Depot in the US, being the biggest. Yesterday’s post blog discussion on twitter (would be so much better in the comments section) hit upon the idea that big box stores like B&Q could have demonstrations, or a section set aside for getting hands on and learning. I do recall that back in the 90s they had such areas in their big huge mega stores. I think the Nottingham store had this where the cafe is (or was) and I’m not 100% certain but I think the store I worked in, in Stockton on Tees, Teesside, had it, though it wasn’t used. These were bleacher type seats with a stage area. The intention to be more presentation/demonstration like and less hands on. I suspect through a combination of not giving it enough time and it being difficult to get interest, they faded? B&Q does have a very active YouTube channel, and I suspect if we were to ask B&Q they’d tell us their focus has shifted to the wider medium.
But what a missed opportunity? Pushing money into demonstration, activities, classes, one-on-ones, workshops and everything else rather than into advertising could guarantee a generation of DIY tool nuts. The technology exits now (eventbrite, meetup.com. newsletters, websites etc) to make it MUCH easier than it notionally was in the 90s to ensure people can be aware of and book in. These could be free or very low cost or a combination of that. Why do we go to the Big Box Store today rather than to amazon? I’ll not dwell on it, but there is NO QUESTION that bricks and mortar stores for the most part, are failing and loosing ground. The more they try to compete with the likes of amazon by trying to emulate amazon the more ground they loose. Though I am sure many reads may not enjoy going to Ikea, for instance, it would be missing the bigger picture that many people DO enjoy it and even consider it a low-cost family day out. The ball-pool and a meal for a family of 4 for less than £15. B&Q retain some of this by occasionally having an assistant who knows something about the area they are looking after. It’s hard to say but this seems less common than it was, or perhaps I’m less inclined to ask for help today, though I did get some great help in the plumbing section when I needed to replace a valve on the toilet and was faced with way too many options all of which turned out to be wrong.
Experiences, classes and such are an area of growth everywhere. People want interesting things to do.
I know that space in any store is premium, and that careful choices need to be made about it. I’m often surprised that B&Q has the trade section, my thinking would be to push trade customers over to Screwfix (it is after all the same company) though of course Screwfix doesn’t have timber and building materials yards… though it could add them of course. B&Q is NOT as I had thought, part of Home Depot group, it belongs to Kingfisher group and is entirely European, with branches in China apparently.
However no one likes the lighting section, and that takes up way too much space. Get rid, put in a big maker space and a set of demo areas. You could even tie it in with the YouTube channels and have live stream or edited highlights turned into lesson. B&Q if you’re listening… I can help guide this. Natch.
today’s thumbnail is a round pin plug socket found in an old lace mill in Ilkeston.