Bunnings Warehouse case study

From DIY projects to big business, the right advice and the right tools can make all the difference. This is no news to hardware giant Bunnings, which has earned the trust and loyalty of customers by providing expert advice and the right tools for home improvement for decades.

‘Customers work hard for the money in their pocket and they think carefully about where they choose to spend it,’ says General Manager Human Resources Willem Pruys. ‘We put a lot of effort into making our customer experience a great one – and we hope they’ll see us as their first choice.’

Building a successful business like Bunnings and maintaining a reputation for excellence has taken years of careful strategic planning. And just as Bunnings’ customers turn to the experts for advice on home handyman projects, the Bunnings team turn to the experts for advice specific to business strategy in the retail industry. 

The relationship

More than 20 years ago Bunnings formed a relationship with the executive development program Strategic Planning and Management in Retailing (SPMR). Not long after, the business undertook a pivotal acquisition, which prompted a careful strategy rethink to ensure the direction and sustainability of their business for the long term.

‘The program was pretty critical to us making the choices around strategy we made in the first place,’ Willem says. ‘Over the years we’ve tweaked our strategy and contemporised it, but the fundamental hasn’t changed. It’s still about delivering a great customer experience.’

Delivered as part of Melbourne Business School-Mt Eliza Executive Education’s Open Programs portfolio, SPMR provides participants with the advice and tools they need to develop strategic thinking specific to their business. ‘If it’s retail strategy we’re after we don’t even hesitate – it’s this program. There’s nothing else in the country that is this specific for the retail industry,’ says Willem.

The outcome

Today, the company boasts a broad management base with a united focus on strategy, which Willem believes is key to Bunnings’ success. ‘We do a lot of work internally to help our people understand our strategy,’ he says. ‘But it’s not until they actually go through the program that they really have an in-depth understanding of what our strategy’s all about. They come out with a strategic thinking framework to actually nut out the ‘why’s and make sense of it.’

‘If I sit down with two buyers, in 99 per cent of cases, the one that has done the program is making decisions that are more aligned with strategy and are more likely to give us good outcomes than those who haven’t had the opportunity.’ The program’s reputation among management at Bunnings is strong and demand is high for the development opportunity. ‘It’s the program everyone wants to get in to,’ says Willem.

Looking to the future, Willem will continue to keep SPMR as a central tool for management development. ‘Attendance really is core for everyone in our business who operates beyond a certain level,’ he says. ‘Without it they don’t have the thinking frameworks to make the critical decisions.’

In the current retail climate, with businesses facing increasing pressure from online retailers, Willem agrees it’s tough. ‘But in many ways, nothing has changed,’ he says. ‘There’s always been pressure from outside, offering customers increased choice. And that will continue.’

By gaining support from experts in the field, Willem ensures that Bunnings decision-makers make informed, targeted decisions for the business. ‘Sending your people to a program like this helps them make the decisions they need to make for the future. It gives them the advice and the tools they need to deal with the challenges the industry is going to face.’ And as millions of satisfied Bunnings customers will tell you, that can make all the difference.