Bunnings boom to tune of $600m

BALLINA was swept up in speculation yesterday that it will get a new or upgraded Bunnings warehouse.

The hardware giant announced on Monday that it would spend more than $600 million to expand its NSW outlets.

While the large Lismore Bunnings mirrors other stores around the country, the much smaller Ballina offering is more a rabbit warren than a warehouse.

The company, owned by Wesfarmers, said it would invest in 18 metropolitan and regional stores over the next three years.

The expansion has been largely interpreted as a defensive move in preparation for a major battle with arch-rival Woolworths, which has done a deal with US hardware giant Lowe's to set up 30 new stores, the first of which is slated to open by the end of next year.

Woolworths has plans to acquire 150 sites over the next five years.

Although Bunnings didn't answer questions from The Northern Star yesterday, since July last year the company has embarked on a major regional expansion, opening stores in Armidale, Wagga Wagga, Narellan, Morriset and Cowra, with trade centres in Tuggerah and Unanderra.

The company controls about 16 per centof the national home improvement sector.

Announcing the expansion, Bunningsmanaging director John Gilliam said it would create 2700 permanent jobs.

“Our NSW opening program is part of an ongoing network expansion strategy across the country,” he said.

“We are particularly excited about the strength and complementary nature of the sites we have secured, which are enabling us to accelerate our NSW opening program.”

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