Readers of The New Daily have corroborated the findings of our investigation into the rising prices of building products at Bunnings, but many say they will continue to shop at the hardware chain because of the quality of its customer service and wide product range.
Our analysis of the price movements of 45 building products commonly used in renovations revealed that the cost of home projects increased on average by 11.3 per cent for Bunnings customers in the last year.
The rises affected the retail cost of a raft of renovation materials including concrete, renders plasterboard, paint, and sealers.
Some product lines including sinks, lighting and paintbrushes are now at least 40 per cent more expensive than a year ago.
There appears to be a big disconnect between the official rate of inflation for building products published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the double-digit price hikes at Bunnings.
The ABS reports that average prices for building products rose by slightly less than three per cent in the last year.
One perceptive reader alerted The New Daily to the possibility that the ABS may have encountered big problems tracking the real cost of building materials.
“Isn’t the real story then not really about Bunnings, but how the ABS inflation numbers bear no correlation to real world costs?”
The reader made a strong point because Bunnings accounts for a large slab of the retail home improvement market.
According to market research firm IBIS World, the hardware giant collects about 40 cents in every dollar spent by consumers on building products and hardware.
Unless other hardware retailers were aggressively cutting prices in the last year, it is difficult to reconcile the ABS’ inflation observation with the trajectory of Bunnings’ prices.
Customers irate but will stick with Bunnings
Many readers told us they were aware that Bunnings was not always a cheap place to shop, but they would keep going back because of the big range of products on offer.
“I’ll still always use Bunnings for the vast array available of everything you could possibly need,” one reader said.
Others were skeptical about the gap between the hardware chain’s marketing pitch and its prices.
“The best thing anyone can do is online shopping – there are thousands of small online Australian suppliers that work on a much smaller markup,” another reader said.
“All large stores like Bunnings work on using a lead-in line at low prices just to get you in the shop, then once there buy more items at inflated prices.”
So where do the tradies go?
If you’re planning to repaint your house, Master Painters Australia (MPA) recommends you buy paint and materials at a specialist paint store.
Denis Drum, a technical adviser at MPA in Queensland, said most qualified painters sourced their materials from chain stores such as Paint & Colour and PaintWise.
“Retail customers can buy paint at these stores as well and apart from lower prices they will also get free advice from qualified painters,” he said.
“I think a lot of the staff at Bunnings selling paint are not always qualified painters, they’re often retail store people.”
Mark Amos, the chief executive of MPA in Victoria and Tasmania, said consumers could garner savings by going to a specialist paint retailer such as Paint Spot.
“It’s not only the lower prices, but also the free advice that can save home renovators from selecting the wrong paint,” he said.
Malcolm Richards, the chief executive of Master Electricians Australia, said most of his members sourced equipment and materials through wholesalers because retail chains such as Bunnings did not carry a full range of stock.
He warned home renovators to avoid undertaking electrical work if they did not know what they were doing.
“Poor electrical work can kill,” he said.
“People should also be wary of buying electrical materials online because there is a growing problem with internet vendors marketing products made for price and not to a quality standard.”