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Bunnings tweaks offer in Hemel

Craig & Rose display

It only seems like a few weeks ago that we were anticipating the first Bunnings to open its doors in the UK and suddenly we have three and confirmed plans for another seven before the end of the year. If you've not had chance, you can read our impressions of the first store that opened in February on Griffiths Way, St.Albans - Bunnings UK our first impressions

This week, it's all about the new store on Apsley Mills Retail Park, London Road, Hemel Hempstead, which officially opened its doors last Friday 9th June. At  64,000sq ft, Hemel is slightly smaller than the 67,000sq ft store on Griffiths Way and significantly larger than the 40,000sq ft Hatfield Road, St.Albans that opened in April.

Range

Having heard on a number of occasions that the Bunnings team would be tweaking their ranges as the format developed, we certainly expected to see more changes then we did. Nothing I’ve seen to date, really persuades me that this is not just another copy and paste of the original Australian format, with maybe just a few tweaks starting to appear.

The category space allocation was identical to Griffiths Way with another dominant hand/power tool category, impressive decorative offer and a gardening range just shy of Homebase at it’s very best. Once again, there’s a poorly represented kitchen and bathroom offer, although having spent time with PJ last week, I’m beginning to understand why Kitchens and Bathrooms are a lower priority. However, with the increasing focus on the performance of the remaining 252 Homebase stores, I still don’t quite understand why they have effectively handed all their kitchen business to Wickes on a plate.

Milton Keynes, which we understand opens first week of July, will be the acid test. With 100,000sq ft of space available, there are only so many BBQ’s the size of small family cars and hot tubs that can accommodate a family of twelve in comfort that you need to offer. We’d therefore expect a more credible offer of K&B than we’ve seen in any of the three Bunnings stores to date.

Lighting, storage and seasonal space allocation feels right and yet the need to offer a more comprehensive building and hard-side range in the hope of attracting the trade, results in a squeeze on flooring, particularly tiles. This is a pity, as there are some innovative products being launched in this category and Bunnings will miss out on these.

The key development we identified was within Paint, where the repackaged and refreshed Craig & Rose 1829 range is now taking centre stage. There’s plenty of images within our gallery, so feel free to check them out. With the Farrow & Ball being rolled out to B&Q, this is an important move for Bunnings as it provides an exclusive, premium range to deliver a key point of difference to their Decorative offer. The core chalky emulsion range looks great, is well positioned on price and has developed its colour offer to reflect the whites and greys now popular in the UK. The small ‘Artisan’ Decorative Effects range offers some interesting products, but at £49.95 and £69.95 for a 2.5L can, we’ll be updating you on the depth of dust gathering on these tins over the next few months.

We’re told that Craig & Rose will be rolled back into the other two Bunnings stores at some point and it will also appear in selective Homebase stores over the next few months, assuming the range begins to perform.

There’s no obvious contraction of the new ‘Australian’ brands that we first saw appearing in the Homebase estate in May last year. For more detail on these you can read – New Bunning brands hit UK stores in forceIf anything, their presence, particularly in secondary locations appears to be increasing. The most prominent ‘new’ brands include Monarch and Paint Partner (Painting Accessories), Selleys (Adhesives & Fillers), Ozito (Power Tools), Kit Kabbodle (kitchens), Aqua (Garden Watering), Matador (BBQ’s), Trojan (Hand Tools), Marquee (Garden Furniture) and Flexi (Storage). I’m still hoping that before the end of the year, we’ll see a range of ‘Ripper’ hand tools and ‘Bodgy’ paint brushes, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time.

They clearly know how to retail home improvement products and the plethora of secondary locations including dump stacks, quarter pallets and clip strips is a sight to behold. It is so at odds to the clinical way that Homebase chose to retail the same products, that it helps to understand how they lost their way. I’ve always believed that in retail, you have to put the products at risk of being sold, after all, you can’t sell anything from the pallet displays above the fixture or the warehouse.

Service

Bunnings continues to impress with the service levels they provide and quite simply the genuine friendliness of every member of staff. You can’t help but believe they really want to help you and it’s such a refreshing change from our usual home improvement retail experience. I’ve not actually asked staff for help with anything yet and it would be interesting to see the depth of their product and range knowledge, maybe I’ll save that for Milton Keynes. They’ve once again included a café and kids play area, which I think is a great addition to any home improvement store.

Price

It’s now becoming clear that Bunnings do mean ‘Price is just the beginning’. As you may be aware, we track the retail prices of 30 of the biggest selling and best known branded decorative and garden products across B&Q, Bunnings Warehouse, Wickes, Wilko and Wyevale. The audit contains only identical or directly comparable products across the retailers and we update it every two weeks. To have a closer look at the baskets and download samples of the data, click here.

We’ve been tracking Bunnings since the day the first store opened in St.Albans and since then (almost 18 weeks), they’ve consistently been the lowest priced retailer and not by a small margin either. The most recent audit completed on 6th June 2017, showed Bunnings was 10% lower than Wilko, 17% below B&Q and 27% lower than Wickes. Remember, these are identical or directly comparable lines, many featuring within the top 100 prodcuts in these retailers businesses. In the garden, the differences are also significant, with the iGarden30 revealing Bunnings is 19% below Wickes, 21% below B&Q and a massive 34% below Wyevale. Of course, you wouldn’t expect the bigger players to price match a competitor with only three stores and no transactional website, but this is clearly going to have to happen at some point. To receive the full iPaint30 and iGarden30 baskets every two weeks, including breakdown of the products and price movements, the cost is £50 plus vat per month and you just need to request this here - enquiries@insightdiy.co.uk

Source: Steve Collinge, Managing Director Insight Retail Group Ltd

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15 June 2017

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