As the UK’s first Bunnings Warehouse opens for trading in St Albans, Retail Week was first to see the store and speak to the retailer’s boss PJ Davis. 

Bunnings Warehouse opens its doors to customers today, February 2, replacing the former Homebase in Griffiths Way, St Albans.

It is the first Homebase to be converted since the Bunnings owner Wesfarmers acquired the DIY chain last year in a deal worth £340m.

The former Homebase store was shuttered in November in order for the transformation to take place.

Bunnings’ UK and Ireland managing director PJ Davis told Retail Week the second conversion would take place a stone’s throw from the first, on Hatfield Road in St Albans.

The Homebase on Hatfield Road will close next month and re-open as a Bunnings Warehouse in April.  

The third Bunnings pilot will replace the current Homebase in Hemel Hempstead and will be larger than the first two. 

Davis would not disclose the location of the fouth store, but said the business is on-track to have the initial tranche of pilots up and running by June.

With £500m of investment from Australia-based Wesfarmers, the Bunnings team plans to transform the entire 265-unit Homebase estate over the next three to five years.

The first Bunnings Warehouse

Davis said the former Homebase in Griffiths Way, measuring 67,000 sq ft, was selected for the first pilot because it is “quite typical” of the conversions the business will face in the future.

Now a Bunnings Warehouse, the home improvement store holds 40% more SKUs – around 30,000 in total – and includes a children’s play area and cafe. 

As well as a 19,000 sq ft garden centre, the warehouse features timber cutting, a tool shop with a large choice of brands and a paint mixing service. 

Davis speaks to Retail Week about his plans for Bunnings in the UK

The store now has double the number of employees at 68 – many of whom are aged over 50 and originally come from trade backgrounds.

“After extensive training, the team is perfectly placed to offer customers a helping hand and expert advice on any home or garden project,” Davis said.

He confirmed that the store will host the Sausage Sizzles for which Bunnings is well-known for in Australia, as well as home improvement workshops on peak trading days.

A key milestone

Davis described the first Bunnings Warehouse store as a “key milestone”.

“It is great to be able to give people a taste of what Bunnings is all about. Our policy is to offer customers the lowest prices, the widest range and the best service, and hopefully our first pilot store demonstrates that,” he said.

The business will take learnings from the first four pilot stores before opening another 10, and eventually pushing the button on a full rollout. 

When the deal with former Argos and Habitat owner Home Retail Group completed, Wesfarmers cleared out the Homebase management team and cut jobs at its store support centre, which has now relocated within Milton Keynes.

The retailer’s new leadership team includes finance director Rodney Boys, and is supported by a three-man UK advisory board. 

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