Bunnings Jack-of-all-trades; Masters master of none

First published in New Zealand Herald  5 February 2016

The demise of Woolworths’ Australian hardware experiment, Masters, is not going to devastate too many customers because not too many customers ever went to Masters.

Take me (as a sample size of one). I love DIY and I’m the hardware buyer in our family. Every weekend I feel a project coming on and so I jump in the car and – head to Bunnings. We all do. In fact the only person I know who ever goes to Masters is my father, mostly when he’s with my 5-year old son and pretty much for the racing car shopping trolleys.

Masters truly failed to deliver anything new and spectacularly so – $700 million in losses since its 2011 launch.

That’s not to say that Bunnings is an infallible brand.

What it doesn’t offer is locations everyone knows off by heart, the ridiculous power that being largely competitor-free has afforded Bunnings for all these years and the many years of marketing that drilled that name into our head. And that eponymous strapline: Lowest prices are just the beginning.

Almost twenty years since leaving New Zealand and I still sing the song whenever I see that red Kiwi icon; The Warehouse. Bunnings is our Warehouse, supersized.

It is our loss that we didn’t have more reason to support Masters and it’s disappointing that the combined retail experience of Woolworths and Lowe’s couldn’t create something better.

I can’t tell you how many times I slowed the car down and almost turned my indicator on to go into the Masters car park. Instead I drove on thinking, what’s the point, I’ll just go to Bunnings which is a few minutes away, has the same stuff and I know it inside out. And I know they kept saying it was targeted at women but how that was ever communicated is something else I couldn’t tell you.

I also wish I could offer that golden suggestion on how they could have done it differently; I just don’t have that insight into the workings of the hardware industry. Problem is, neither did Woolworths when they entered the hardware race.

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