The UK's first ever Bunnings store is to officially open on Thursday, February 2, following a “pre-opening event” held this weekend.
Bunnings is planning to run several “pre-opening” events for the staff, friends, family, suppliers and local communities surrounding the new stores, of which St Albans is the first. All the events involve the famous Bunnings sausage sizzle fundraiser.
Last weekend's event was, according to a Bunnings spokesperson, for the staff at St Albans to “thank them for their hard work” as well as officially give the store team their Bunnings “reds” (uniform).
Wesfarmers managing director Richard Goyder has described the converted Homebase store as “looking terrific” and added, “the proof will be in the pudding in terms of how the customer sees it.”
Bunnings is planning to open at least four more stores like this one over the next few months, but Mr Goyder reiterated that the conversion of the entire Homebase portfolio would depend on how the pilot stores were received.
“Conversion will depend on how the first handful go – when we're happy with how they go well move relatively quickly," Mr Goyder said. "It will take some time because there are 270 stores, but if we need to make tweaks we'll do that before we do a fast rollout."
Bunnings' UK team leader Peter Davis, meanwhile, said that the new store would be “instantly recognisable as a Bunnings to anyone who has ever shopped with us,” adding, “We're bringing the widest range of home improvement and garden products to the UK market.”
The store in St Albans is around 70,000sq ft, measuring up to less than half the size of Bunnings' usual Australian warehouse stores.
The stores will hold around 40% more products or SKUs than former Homebase stores and bosses have pledged to dedicate more space to garden products and tools rather than kitchen, bathroom and homewares products. However, according to reports, the new stores will still not measure up to the SKUs offered by B&Q warehouses, which currently offer around double.
Wesfarmers has said it is keen not to repeat the mistakes made by US rival Lowes, which, along with Australian partner Woolworths, recently lost billions of dollars attempting to launch American DIY store Masters in Australia.
Mr Goyder added that he remains confident Bunnings in the UK will achieve a 18% return on capital within three to five years.
The new-format stores are expected to employ more staff than the traditional Homebases, and incorporate more family-friendly elements such as cafes and playgrounds. There are plans for hosting sausage sizzles just like the stores Down Under. A Bunnings UK website is reportedly also under development, to run alongside the existing Homebase site.
For more updates on the new Bunnings store opening, watch DIYWeek.net.