Australian retailer Bunnings has opened its first UK store in Hertfordshire as part of a ?500 million investment plan by its owners.
The inaugural 67,000 square feet shop replaces one of St Albans’ previous Homebase stores, after the entire brand was acquired by Bunnings’ parent company Wesfarmers in a ?340 million deal last year.
It is the company’s latest move to tap into Britain’s ?38 billion home improvement and garden market, with plans to open at least four pilot locations by June, creating 120 jobs.
A total of 10 stores could be up and running by the end of the year.
Wesfarmers aims to invest up to ?500 million to roll out Bunnings Warehouse locations across the UK and Ireland over the next three to five years, as it rebrands former Homebase sites under the Australian retailer’s banner.
The conglomerate kept 258 of Homebase’s stores as part of the multimillion-pound deal struck with Argos owner Home Retail Group in February 2016.
Home Retail Group was snapped up by Sainsbury’s months later for ?1.4 billion.
Wesfarmers has a market valuation of almost ?27 billion, and is the largest private sector employer in Australia with around 220,000 staff.
Peter Davis, the managing director of Bunnings UK and Ireland, said: ?Our policy is to offer customers the lowest prices, the widest range and best service, and hopefully our first pilot store demonstrates that.?
He said the second Bunnings Warehouse store will also be based in St Albans – on Hatfield Road – and is set to open in April.
?We are laying strong foundations on which to build the Bunnings Warehouse business in the UK and Ireland for generations to come.?
Bunnings said the inaugural UK site will stock 30,000 different home and garden lines, and include both a 19,000 square foot garden centre and a DIY workshop where customers are coached in home improvement skills like wallpaper hanging and tile cutting.
The store also hosts a caf? and indoor children’s playground.