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Australia’s hardware war heads online

Posted by Michael Bloch in ecommerce (Monday March 14, 2011 )

Some Australians *may* soon get a better online experience in regard to buying hardware, thanks to a battle between Bunnings and Woolworths for supremacy in the sector. It’s another flag for established Australian brands to fully embrace the Internet and ecommerce, rather than doing the bare minimum in terms of participation.

Late last year, Australian hardware giant Bunnings copped an online slap in the face when it failed to renew the domain name. It beggars belief that such a primo domain name could be let go in such a way. The domain wound up going to auction and Woolworths grabbed it for a song – about $33,000.

Now it seems U.S. hardware giant Lowes has teamed up with supermarket behemoth Woolworths to build a hardware store within a very short distance from a Bunnings outlet. Here’s where it gets interesting.

A report on the Brisbane Times site mentions that one of the features of Lowes’ stores in the USA is that every product can be bought online – and they offer a 20 minute pickup time. The rumor is this may be the “secret” plan for this new store.

Bunnings’ web site isn’t exactly ugly, but it’s not all that useful either – it’s basically a big brochure rather than a catalog.

I buy from Bunnings quite regularly – our local store is huge and I can lose a lot of time there. That’s fine when I have the time to spare. Sometimes I just want one item and if I don’t know where it is and all the staff are busy, I really need a packed lunch to see me through in searching for it. As I don’t take a packed lunch, I just leave.

Like some other big brands in Australia, Bunnings has failed to really “get” the Internet. Those brands are “getting” it now because they are losing cash. Some Aussie retailers are crying foul that Australians purchasing from overseas merchants are having an impact on their bottom line and have called for added taxes on such purchases.

Bunnings had the opportunity to be the first major hardware chain to allow buying online a la Lowes, further cementing their position; an opportunity they may greatly regret they missed if Woolworths really get cranking on opening hardware stores throughout the nation and offering that capability. I guess there’s still time for Bunnings – but they best hop to it. Bunnings, offer online purchasing and you’ll see me (and many others) far more often – virtually of course.


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