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Bunnings unleash the 'B&Q Basher' in MK

Bunnings MK 2

Over the last six weeks, like a phoenix, the Bunnings Warehouse in Milton Keynes has gradually emerged from the flames and ashes that once was a Homebase store on Snowdon Drive. The transformation is so complete, that it's hard to believe this ever was a Homebase in the first place and the green and orange branding, matching cushions and 15% off weekends are already a distant memory.

Read - More information on the MK store location here.

Read - Bunnings Warehouse MK facts.

At 90,000sq ft this is the largest store in the Homebase estate and the fourth to be converted to a Bunnings to date, following St.Albans 1 and 2 and Hemel Hempstead which opened three weeks ago.  The store employs 140 people, including more than 88 in newly-created full and part-time roles.

Read - Bunnings tweaks offer in Hemel.

Whilst B&Q keep a watching brief from afar, the Bunnings top team continue to say that they're not targeting B&Q, they're simply looking to provide customers with more choice and as a result grow the UK home improvement market.

In reality, with this store, they've just landed a dark green 747 on B&Q's back lawn and whilst the B&Q team busily re-organise their back bedroom, Bunnings have stolen the beers out of their fridge, they've fired up the orange BBQ and Damian McGloughlin is busy cooking the sizzling sausages.

Read - Bunnings to double size of 2017 pilot store programme.

There's no doubt this is a DIY Warehouse, it's functional, completely lacking in inspiration and ideas (unless you're particularly inspired by an open ironing board sitting on top of a pallet) and it's packed to the rafters with stock. The prices are very competitive on most lines and the aisles are full of well trained, pleasant staff. Yes of course, it was opening day and it was all shiny, clean and polished and there were none of the dead and dying bedding plants I witnessed in the Hemel store only two days ago. But however you want to look at it, this large format is impressive and even more impressive that this has been delivered in such a short period of time.

It's of course the first time we've been able to see the entire product and service offering from Bunnings and what they see as the category priorities to tempt the UK home improvement and garden consumer away from B&Q and Wickes. As with the first three stores, tools and power tools have their own statement department and the Decorative and seasonal ranges take space priority. But it was the lighting department that really stood out for me. Now moved to the very front of the store and with a dramatic increase in space, it really helped to offset the feeling that this is purely a functional paint and timber store. The range is comprehensive, is displayed really well and provides something of a much needed 'softer' feel.

The other clear difference in Milton Keynes is the comprehensive trade offer, complemented with their own trade entrance. If the trade can be pulled away from Screwfix and the discounted breakfasts at Selco, then I think they'll be pleasantly surprised with the range, depth of stock and the prices available.

In regard to other areas, the Bunnings team members have been busy in Milton Keynes over the last couple of months, lending a helping hand with gardening and decorating projects for MK Snap, Loughton Manor First School, and Milton Keynes Hospital. This support continues a long tradition by Bunnings in Australia and New Zealand of playing an active part in the local community.

To celebrate todays opening, Australian legend and racing driver Mark Webber hosted a welcome breakfast for team members. Nine-time Grand Prix winner and F1 legend Mark Webber said: “Bunnings Warehouse is a huge name in my native Australia, so it’s an honour to be opening their biggest UK store to date. I’m sure the store will be a great success.”

The store’s Complex Manager, Kevin Dale, added: “It is great to finally open our doors to customers. Our team members have worked really hard to get the store ready for opening. Collectively we’ve already completed more than 1,500 training hours to make sure we have the expertise to help with home or garden projects.”

Two grand opening weekend events will also be taking place on 8/9 and 15/16 June with a raft of free family activities. Customers can enjoy face-painting, balloon modelling and even join Peppa Pig & George for a Story Time session (see in store for details).

The company, part of Australia’s Wesfarmers Group, plans to invest up to £500million rolling out Bunnings Warehouse stores across the UK and Ireland over the next three to five years.

Next store opening will be Folkestone, late July.

Read - Bunnings reveal location of fifth store.

Source: Steve Collinge - MD Insight Retail Group Ltd.

Email Steve at Steve@irg.co.uk

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29 June 2017

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