Bunnings has unveiled its first branded store in the UK on the outskirts of St Albans. The new store – the first of four that will open in the same area – was previously a branch of Homebase, but has been completely renovated to become a more traditional DIY retailer with a focus on price and advice.

The DIY shed format has been struggling in the UK in recent years as it comes under increased pressure from the growth of smaller concept, multichannel retailers, but also a gradual drifting away of customers towards the non-specialists. This can partly be explained by a shift in the population towards cities and growth in the proportion of renters compared to homeowners in the UK. As renters have different needs than homeowners, they tend to have lighter DIY requirements and less DIY knowledge.

A no-frills store

The high-sided aisles are densely packed and cardboard boxes filled with products in the aisles add an initial sense of clutter to the interior of the store. The handwritten font on price-tags and signage further seeks to convey the feeling of rough and ready familiarity.
The message from the store layout is clear: the focus is on price and advice with everything else stripped back. It is unashamedly centered on three fundamental pillars upon which the company is pinning its hopes: price, product range and in-store advice.

Fierce market for price

The Bunnings slogan ‘Price is just the beginning’, indicates the fundamental importance of price to the Bunnings offer. However, there is more to value than simply offering the lowest prices. In Mintel’s DIY Retailing UK 2016 report, price was only the fifth most important factor for determining satisfaction with a DIY retailer.
In fact, more than half DIY shoppers agreed with the statement, ‘it is worth spending more on DIY products to get better quality’. Hence, Bunnings will need to ensure it also finds a way to build up its reputation for quality.

Tough to compete on range

Mintel research found that the range on offer at a DIY retailer is the second most important factor in determining where consumers choose to shop. While the in-store range at Bunnings was increased by around 40% during the renovation, there remains a limit on how much stock can be held in the stores that are, on average, significantly smaller than a typical B&Q store.

Advice – an opportunity to excel

The final pillar of the Bunnings offer is delivering expert advice to customers, one area where the new store could stand out.
Two thirds of DIY shoppers agree that expert in-store advice is valuable. However, Mintel research reveals there is customer dissatisfaction with the level of knowledgeable staff across the sector. The new Bunnings store has around twice as many staff as the previous Homebase store and there is a particular focus on recruiting former tradesmen, including plumbers, electricians and decorators, who are able to provide genuine and helpful advice.

Inspiration or advice?

The new Bunnings store marks an important milestone for Wesfarmers in the UK and for the struggling big-box DIY sector. But the lack of in-store inspiration areas and the harder no-frills store environment mark a departure from the general direction of travel in the sector over recent years.
The big question is: What do DIY shoppers look for most when they visit a store, inspiration or advice? If it’s inspiration, then Bunnings will struggle to meet their needs, but our research suggests that advice has the potential to hold even greater appeal.

 

Thomas Slide is Retail Analyst at Mintel working as part of Mintel’s dedicated retail team, writing a range of European retail reports. Prior to joining Mintel Thomas previously worked for Lightspeed GMI, Rainmaker Consulting, John Lewis and Debenhams.

 

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