Obituary: David Quayle

Co-founder of B&Q chain that changed the face of DIY

David Quayle, Co-founder of B&Q. Born: 19 August, 1936, in Banbury, Oxfordshire. Died: 6 April, 2010, on a cruise liner sailing to South Africa, aged 73.

DAVID Quayle was the "Q" of the B&Q store group that has become part of the high streets or out-of-town shopping centres of Britain. He founded the company with brother-in-law Richard Block in Southampton in 1969. The company was initially called Block & Quayle, but the name was shortened as it sounded snappier and more in keeping with a DIY store.

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Through Quayle's visionary management, the company grew considerably and there are now more than 300 B&Q shops in the UK, although the business is no longer owned by the founding families.

Their idea changed the face of DIY shopping: instead of visiting numerous ironmongers and builders merchants, shoppers could buy all they required for a major house improvement, electrical fittings and garden tools under one roof. The duo also pioneered a more relaxed attitude to Sunday opening.

B&Q sold to both the amateur and the professional builder, hitting the market at the right moment. In the early Seventies, many people were expanding or upgrading their houses and the company was able to service this market admirably.

David Andrew Quayle was the son of an RAF officer and was brought up largely in the UK and Germany. After leaving Brighton College, he did his national service with the RAF in Cyprus. He then worked in various retail outlets – notably the John Lewis Partnership, where he much admired its enlightened policy towards staff involvement.

He then moved to Marley Tiles and was in charge of its operations in Belgium. It was there that Quayle saw the vast hypermarkets already pervading the continent that sold a vast array of products. He returned to the UK in 1969 to start B&Q.

Initially, Quayle and Block stacked the shelves and delivered the goods and members of their families worked the tills. They ran a tight ship with goods being sold at commercially profitable prices and overdrafts and costs kept to a minimum. Within five years, their turnover was 1 million. As profits improved, Quayle principally took charge of the expansion of the business and the merchandise sold. Block ensured the smooth running of the company. Block left in 1976 and three years later the company, with its 26 stores showing rising profits, became a public company.

Within four years, the number of stores stood at 37 and their success was further recognised when Woolworths made a bid of 17m for the company. Quayle's shares were then worth 4m.

B&Q has been an integral part of the Scottish retail trade for 30 years and there are 32 stores in Scotland. The company has played a large part in the home-improvements business and supplying good-quality garden furniture and household products at competitive prices. In 1980, B&Q bought the Scottish outlet Dodge City, which further expanded its Scottish business.

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Quayle stayed as a consultant with B&Q until 1982 and became a main board director of Woolworths after the bid. He then concentrated on building up Cityvision, a video rental business trading as Ritz Video. That proved a success and within four years he had opened nearly 800 video libraries. His original investment had grown from 40,000 to 16m.

In 1992, he decided to further his love of drawing and took a two-year course at Heatherly School of Fine Art in Chelsea. But during this study period his ever active commercial mind realised that contemporary art was gaining a far wider appreciation and he decided to buy a disused church near two motorway exits at Eastleigh, in Hampshire and turned it into a gallery.

At its opening, Quayle said, "Living artists have a hard time, but I believe that by using the skills of merchandising and retail, more artists can make a living."

That venture also proved a money-spinner and soon became the biggest-selling art gallery in the south of England. He named it the Beatrice Royal Gallery, after his mother, and he followed the same commercial principals that had won favour at B&Q. It is now owned by Quayle's charitable arm, Tramman Trust , which supports small causes to improve the conditions of underprivileged children in the inner cities.

David Quayle died of a heart attack while on a cruise: a past time he much enjoyed. His first marriage was dissolved and he is survived by his second wife, Chris, by their son and by two stepdaughters, and by two sons and a daughter from his first marriage.