It only just landed in the UK but there's already something the Brits can do that we Aussies can't.
It only just landed in the UK but there's already something the Brits can do that we Aussies can't. Scottie Simmonds

The thing Bunnings UK does for customers Aussie stores won't

IT'S been in the UK for all what, five minutes maybe, and already Bunnings' British customers are set to get a better deal than Australians.

The Perth-based retailer has confirmed it will soon allow its UK customers to shop online. That's one up on its Australians customers.

While Bunnings' home grown website lets customers browse products and complete a 'wish list', if you want to buy some paint or a plank you have no option - you'll have to head down to the nearest store.

However in a presentation earlier this week, Bunnings UK boss Peter Davies told analysts the retailer had to have an eCommerce presence in the competitive British home improvement market or face being overtaken by rivals.

"In [the UK] market we believe strongly we need to be transactional [and] we're working on that right now," he said, according to Fairfax.

The UK presentation shows the company has begun "taking first steps towards" a "digital eco-system".

The long-term process to "build deeper customer involvement and engagement" includes providing services online, in-home and in-store.

"BUKI to build transactional website and supporting infrastructure," it says.

The retailer has hinted plans may be afoot for an Australian transactional website. But that could be years away.

An online retail watcher has told that Australia's sheer size makes online retailing tricky to make work.

"But that doesn't let Bunnings off the hook," said Paul Greenberg of the National Online Retailers Association (NORA), who warned the retailer could be left behind if a competitor jumped into the online hardware retailing space at home.

The Wesfarmers owned retailer bought Britain's second largest DIY chain, Homebase, in early 2016 and converted the first to the Bunnings format last month.

Homebase currently has a transactional website and Bunnings has indicated it will build on this to offer a full range of products to purchase as well as DIY advice to help customers before they buy.

"We have a holding website for Bunnings UK. Our next step is to really lift that and make sure it has strong pre-shop engagement for the UK," Mr Davies said setting out an 18 month timeline for it to become fully transactional.

Yet, Australians are denied the same service and the company appears to be in no great hurry to offer it.

The Australian website, while undoubtedly popular, is mainly focused on home improvement tips, webinars as well as product search function.

Bunnings told they had been an, "active participant in the digital landscape for many years," but would not commit to a timescale for a full domestic online shopping offer.

NORA's Mr Greenberg acknowledged online shopping posed challenges for Australian retailers.

"Australia is a very difficult environment for shopping because of the small population and the massive landmass. If they were going to offer an Australia wide service that would be very expensive to ship across the entire continent.

"And a lot of the stuff from Bunnings is big - think of shipping those big barbecues.

"But that doesn't let Bunnings off the hook," he added.

"It's not easy to ship big products but a lot of companies are already doing just that. You can click and collect with sellers of large products like Harvey Norman, JB Hi Fi, The Good Guys but Bunnings don't allow pick up."

While hardly held up as the paragon of successful retailing, Mr Greenberg said Masters got something right - a full online offer including click and collect. The lack of competition meant Bunnings were under less pressure to build a full website, he said.

"Masters were coming at it from the right perspective, they were very focused on eCommerce and it's sad that they've closed because now Bunnings is the only game in town and they only have to do it their way."

Retailers could reduce their online delivery headaches by shipping direct from suppliers to avoid double handling or build the increased price into margins, he said.

In a statement, Bunnings' Australian Managing Director, Michael Schneider, said the current Australia store network allowed the retailer to offer customers products at the "lowest cost possible".

"Bunnings has been an active participant in the digital landscape for many years investing significantly to build a wide-reaching and engaging digital ecosystem across multiple channels."

The Australian website was focused on, "providing information, practical advice and services for customers," he said adding that the retailer had to adapt to the different markets it operated in such as the UK.

The company did not rule out launching an Australian transactional website in the next 18 months.

"We will continue to listen closely to customers to understand their online needs and ensure that when we do offer products and services online they are provided in a way that customers will value," Mr Schneider said.

Mr Greenberg said they should be wary of leaving it too long.

"Australians are very keen on online shopping, they're highly tech savvy, the most connected customers in the world. Competition is coming thick and fast and retailers should be ahead of the curve, not playing catch up."

News Corp Australia

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