Bunnings business in Australia, Mr Davis continued: “I think we’re the only player in Australia that doesn’t offer interest-free terms but we’ve grown our kitchen business to £200 million from £0 in 10 years by giving customers what they want. “They want an everyday lowest price, they want great quality and they want great fashion. “Now, it’s going to take us a while and that’s why 25% of this store is not kitchen, whereas you go into some of the other big players and most of the store is kitchens. There are a lot of other things that we have to sell other than kitchens – that’s the strategy.” The larger retail footprint allows for a far greater emphasis on trade and building materials in the Milton Keynes store – something Bunnings is keen on – and the timber aisle alone occupies a sizeable space. The store boasts its own separate trade desk and a number of employees at the branch are former trade professionals.

Perfecting the pilots

The first four pilots have been about testing the Bunnings Warehouse format; a process that is ongoing, explained Mr Davis. “We are learning all the time,” he said. “We’ve opened four stores – all are very different and for very good reasons. We’ve changed the internal layout on every store and that’s all about the way the customer shops and making sure we’ve got ranges for the UK market well presented for the UK customer.”

Bunnings is using these learnings

to revisit its first-ever store in order to tweak the layout and assortment further. The unit in question is located on Griffiths Way in St Albans and shares its space with Argos. Discussing the changes planned, Mr Davis said: “We change the

configurations of stores to make certain categories more prominent. “St Albans will take back space occupied by Argos and we will re-lay the store out by November or December this year. Every pilot is a new format but they are all aligned to the key principles of building materials, hardware, home improvement and garden.”

“We don’t need soft furnishings to execute home improvement”

He explained that Bunnings had walked away from a lucrative £100 million soft furnishings business in its transformation of the original Homebase offer to its new Warehouse format and core DIY proposition. When asked what this meant for the female shoppers that once frequented the aisles of Homebase, Mr Davis said he believes women want them to provide a solid DIY and tools offer. “I actually think this [environment] is very attractive to a woman. They don’t just buy lighting or soft furnishings. They want to buy DIY products like paint.” He discussed a DIY clinic held at a Bunnings store in Townsville, Australia recently, to which 500 women attended. “The interest from women around the world in DIY is extremely strong and sometimes women don’t want to be pandered to with soft stuff either. Sometimes women actually want to be offered a true DIY/ home improvement offer and that’s what we’re about. We don’t need soft furnishings to execute home improvement and that’s our belief.” The store’s DIY workshop and

programme of ‘how to’ classes are designed to nurture visitors’ DIY

skills and provide the support in what could be a daunting environment or those customers who are not so DIY savvy. “We’ve always focused on the philosophy of making things easy, of making DIY easy and we think the best thing we can do for you is give [the customer] everything you need and make sure you’ve got choice of quality brands from around the world, whether you spend £x or £x.” But there is still a former Homebase shopper who enjoyed the mix of soft furnishings and a chance to browse the store and its Habitat concessions. If Bunnings are not catering to that customer, then there is a likelihood that this business could be picked up by other general merchandise stores or the grocers as they continue to up their game in non-food categories. However, Bunnings boasts a lighting offer that could rival a department store – showing there is room for fashion-led home products in the retailer’s core DIY selection. With this ‘softer side’ brought forward in the Milton Keynes store and the extra square footage allowing for a greater range, including more novelty and fun lighting products, there may be an offer to tempt those browsers yet.

What the future holds

The next flurry of openings will be “north and south of London”, hints Mr Davis, although the only locations that have been confirmed for now are four sites in Kent and Essex. “We have seen really positive signs but we need to test ourselves further afield,” he said, suggesting Bunnings plans to head further north in the future.

So, what can we expect in the next new Bunnings stores? “The diverse nature of the Homebase network means there are a number of different stores and configurations,” said Mr Davis “We are changing


Opened as Bunnings: 29.06.17 Pilot store number: 4 Footprint: 90,000sq ft SKUs: 35,000 (circa) Employees: 140

the integral layout in each one and bringing different elements forward. We really like this size. It is the ideal but it depends on the market. We have some 20,000sq ft stores in the Homebase estate as well.” The next Warehouse to open will be in Folkestone and is the first completely new site, with Bunnings taking over a unit formerly occupied by rival B&Q. “As we said from the word go, it will be more than the Homebase network”, said Mr Davis, who revealed plans to open stores on up to three new sites this year, as well as a new-build within the next 12 months, enabling Bunnings to design it from scratch to meet its exact requirements.

Looking ahead, Mr Davis told DIY

Week: “We’ve got some challenges with Homebase. This is the future, it’s what we want to do. Three years out, we will have over 200 stores in the UK and Ireland. We are build strong foundations for the business for the future.”

He concluded: “We are here to build Bunnings UK & Ireland, not Bunnings Australia. It’s a format we believe strongly in and we are building a team to execute this,” referencing trading and commercial manager David Haydon and new COO Damian McGloughlin who left his role as B&Q retail director to join the Bunnings board.

12 DIY WEEK 21 JULY 2017

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