Big Bunnings change you may have missed
It's one of the most well-known and high profile advertising slogans from one of Australia's most loved retailers - but not for much longer.
Bunnings is quietly pulling the pin on its famous tagline.
"Lowest prices are just the beginning …" is, well, ending. At least for now.
The home improvement giant has confirmed to news.com.au the slogan has been slowly removed from the side of its stores, uniforms and its advertising.
The company's CEO insisted, however, its price-match promise remained, even if the tagline was being downplayed.
But an industry watcher said the slogan's axing signalled the increasing "headache" Bunnings faced with online stores challenging its prices.
Another retail expert said it was a smart move as most Australians wouldn't even notice its removal and it allowed the company to focus on other selling points.
Until recently, the front wall of all Bunnings stores carried the slogan superimposed on a graphic of a red hammer.
However, an eagle eyed DIY watcher noticed the slogan had vanished from a store in Moorabbin, in Melbourne's southeast.
It has also disappeared from the company's website, TV and radio ads and even its distinctive green aprons.
Bunnings confirmed to news.com.au the slogan had vanished from TV screens and the airwaves last month and was progressively being painted over on stores, where it has been seen for 25 years. New stores built since 2018 haven't sported the tagline
The company said it was focusing instead on three key messages to shoppers: "Lowest prices, widest range and best service."
"Like other retailers, we consistently review aspects of our branding and marketing to make our messaging as simple as possible for customers," Bunnings chief executive officer Mike Schneider told news.com.au.
"This includes refreshing our building signage and upgrading our existing store network as well as our TV commercials."
The company pointed out that campaigns change and that it also ditched its much loved "Lionel" cartoon character many years ago.
WHY DROP THE FAMOUS LINE?
Mr Schneider said the slogan had been relegated because customers knew Bunnings had low prices, so they were putting a bigger emphasis on the online offer. The retailer has been a laggard in the online space and is only now beginning to offer a full transactional website.
He denied the slogan was gone for good and said it could reappear at some point.
"It hasn't been retired. It will be used periodically when we choose in our marketing creative," he said.
UK-based retail consultant Steve Collinge said the well-known slogan was difficult to maintain in an increasingly competitive market place.
"In the UK, online now accounts for 20 per cent of total retail sales; in Australia it's still less than 10 per cent, but it's growing rapidly," he said.
"Bunnings knows that consumers will continue to buy online in increasing numbers and this will provide them with a real headache."
Mr Collinge, who is in Australia to speak at a conference organised by rival Mitre 10, told news.com.au the growth of online was making it harder for Bunnings to be the lowest-priced option.
"Bunnings is a great brand but it's hamstrung by its monster stores that have very high fixed costs. That means nimbler competitors with a much lower costs base are able to come in with cheaper prices," he said.
But Mr Schneider said he "couldn't disagree more" that the slogan was being axed due to worries about rivals' prices.
"We invest over $5 million a year in a very robust system to constantly check competitor's prices online and in store, nationally and regionally. In stores, we have pricing integrity team members who check the local market and we scrape prices online," he said.
"We're incredibly and genuinely committed to our policy of lowest prices."
The company is embroiled in a legal stoush in New Zealand where it has been taken to court over charges it misled customers with advertising campaigns that are strikingly similar to those found in Australia, including the ubiquitous slogan: "Lowest prices are just the beginning …"
The Commerce Commission has alleged Bunnings misled shoppers by claiming to have the lowest prices, even though its products were not necessarily the cheapest on the market.
The small print of Bunnings' price guarantee does concede the firm "can't always be the lowest at every instant on everything" and will price match.
Mr Schneider said he couldn't comment on the NZ case as it was still before the court. But he said the price guarantee was generous and didn't have to be on identical items.
"Regardless of brand, if customers come into a store with a product that our team members believe is comparable, a bucket for instance, we will match it 100 per cent," he said.
PROMISES HARD TO KEEP
Queensland University of Technology retail marketing expert Gary Mortimer said he was not surprised Bunnings was removing the "lowest prices" line. He said it reflected a trend that had seen Big W remove "We sell for less" from its storefronts and Woolworths take down "The fresh food people" from exteriors - although Woolies' slogan is still prominent in its advertising.
"Having a slogan there on the side of a building exposes you to criticism that you're not delivering on that promise. Removing it takes that focus away and allows you to become more agile," Professor Mortimer said
"Bunnings may have identified that price is not the main reason people shop with them. I know I go there because of the range, that a team member is in every aisle and the quality is reasonable."
By any measure Australians remain enthused by Bunnings' offer. Last year, it contributed 57 per cent of the earnings of its owner, Perth-based retail to industrial conglomerate Wesfarmers. That's three times as much as its sister companies, Kmart and Target.
The big box store made a tidy profit of $1.6 billion on sales of $13 billion in 2019, up more than 8 per cent on the previous year.
Prof Mortimer said he doubted whether people would even notice.
"Bunnings can't do much wrong, Australia loves them," he said.
He said the sausage sizzle was more iconic and signalled Bunnings' support of local communities. There would be uproar if that was ever axed, he added.