In pictures: Bunnings St Albans

The newly opened first converted Homebase features a cafe, play area, enlivened planteria and more brands.

The centre includes 30% more staff and more than 30% more garden products.

Trolleys, new higher racking and tidier aisles feature

Plants and play area are close to the plantaria. Orchids are £4.97- Bunnings aims to be 10% cheaper

More children's play products and DIY projects are for sale

Ranges are deeper and broader

Brands are part of the Bunnings strategy, 'because they drive innovation'

The store launched to 1,000 staff and 1,000 suppliers and families and made tweaks to add more promotional product displays before official launch on 2 February

Daily product demos

The planteria

UK MD PJ Davis

The charity sausage sizzle is at weekends

Bunnings is the big new name in UK DIY/garden centres, with the Australian retail giant having bought Homebase for £340m in January 2016 and having now opened its first UK store at St Albans, Hertfordshire.

Changes for the gardening customer at the pilot store, which has a design that could roll out to all 260 UK Homebases over the next five years in a £500m rebrand, are a bigger selection of plants and more practical range of DIY and gardening goods on offer at the 6,500sqm centre.

UK managing director Peter ('PJ') Davis says no one has more than 15 per cent of the £38bn UK market, so there is lots to play for. Another St Albans Homebase, Hemel Hempstead and another nearby Homebase will become Bunnings by 30 June, with 10 conversions due this year.

Bunnings is seeking to be 10 per cent cheaper than rivals and has increased the number of different products available by 40 per cent. Bunnings says value is the driver for purchasing, although it favours branded product, but aims to bring in some local plant buying in the season.

Davis said: "We know Brits love their gardens and our research shows they make double the spend on gardening than our Australian customers. We want to capitalise on that, giving them what they want, with more advanced plants and a lot more landscaping than they would traditionally see.The customer is going to have a far wider range to choose from and we've pushed into heavier-end landscape products and advanced planting."

He says staff are better trained with 3,000 hours training before St Albans re-opened. Badges on staff aprons show which courses they have passed. Davis the whole £38bn DIY/gardening shopping market should improve as rivals such as B&Q also invest to keep up.

See more in next edition of Horticulture Week.

Book now for the Garden Retail Summit 2017 - the leading independent knowledge and networking event for executives. Taking place in London on 23rd February, this year's event will focus on growth, and include the opportunities and challenges of 'brexit', learnings from the latest garden centre developments - and will be opened with a keynote address from John Cleland, CEO, Dobbies.  For more details and tickets go to: www.gardenretailawards.com/summit


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