The UK’s first Bunnings store will open in St Albans as Homebase’s new owner strides ahead with its conversion plans, Retail Week can reveal. 

The Bunnings Warehouse branded store will replace the Homebase in Griffiths Way, St Albans, and is expected to open in mid-February.

Measuring 70,000 sq ft, the pilot store will be the first Homebase to be fully converted since Australian giant Wesfarmers acquired the DIY chain earlier this year.

Wesfarmers, which bought Homebase from Home Retail Group in a deal worth £340m, has confirmed plans today to have “at least four” pilot stores up and running by the end of next June.

Bunnings Warehouse, St Albans

Homebase Bunnings managing director Peter Davis said this particular Homebase was selected for the first pilot because it is “quite typical” of the conversions the business will face in the future.

He told Retail Week: “The demographic is strong. Plus St Albans is a good distance from the store support centre and London, so it’s easy for our suppliers and development team to support the opening.”

The Homebase branch will be closed at the end of this month so the retailer can start work on the fit out and training the store team. 

Davis said the store’s current mezzanine will be removed and a larger canopy added.

The store will hold around 40% more SKUs than a traditional Homebase store, and employ an additional 30 members of staff. A café, a children’s playground and a training area for both staff and customers will also be installed. 

Davis also confirmed that “when the time is right” the store will host the Sausage Sizzles for which Bunnings is well-known in Australia.

A key milestone

Davis described the first Bunnings Warehouse store as a “key milestone” but said the pilot programme is a “small part” of what the business is focused on.

“It is an opportunity to continue to learn how to combine the best of the UK and Ireland with the best of Bunnings,” he added.

”We want to open between four and ten pilots before we push the button on the wider roll out, because we’ve got a lot to learn,” he told Retail Week.

When the deal with the former Argos and Habitat owner completed in February, Wesfarmers cleared out the Homebase management team and cut jobs at its store support centre.

The retailer said a new leadership team has now been appointed.

Bunnings’ entry is set to disrupt the UK DIY market, which is dominated by Kingfisher-owned B&Q and Travis Perkins’ brand Wickes.