How Queensland firm plans to beat Bunnings

THE 107-year-old hardware group Bretts is bucking a ­national downturn in the building supplies market, posting double-digit growth even as it battles competitors such as Bunnings.

Bretts managing director Bill Nutting said the company had expanded the number of trade outlets around southeast Queensland in the past three years as it sought to improve its profile and offering to builders and tradies.

"Bunnings has done an excellent job of murdering independent hardware traders," Mr Nutting said.

"Builders don't want to shop there, but they are on every corner, so it is convenient. We have had a strategy of opening more trade stores to counter that."

Bretts CEO Bill Nutting, at the Bretts Geebung timber yard with workers Doug Carroll (left) and Matt Hubbard. Picture: Mark Cranitch
Bretts CEO Bill Nutting, at the Bretts Geebung timber yard with workers Doug Carroll (left) and Matt Hubbard. Picture: Mark Cranitch

Since 2015, Bretts has opened new trade outlets at Browns Plains, Caboolture, Narangba, Wynnum and Coorparoo, bringing the total number of locations to eight.

The company, which supplies direct to builders rather than being a retailer, is also moving its main trade store to a larger site at Chermside from Windsor, where the company has had a presence for more than a century.

The Chermside site, formerly a Mitre 10 that Bretts has purchased, will include hardware, timber and landscaping materials. Bretts, which sold the Windsor site in 2000, was paying $1 million in rent to remain on the site as a tenant. Mr Nutting said the building supplies market remained troubled as banks tightened lending to the construction sector.

The company has expanded the number of trade outlets around southeast Queensland in the past three years as it sought to improve its profile and offering to builders and tradies. Picture: Mark Cranitch
The company has expanded the number of trade outlets around southeast Queensland in the past three years as it sought to improve its profile and offering to builders and tradies. Picture: Mark Cranitch

"Overall, the market is soft and down up to 20 per cent year-on-year," Mr Nutting said. "After the banking royal commission last year, the banks stopped lending to the building industry."

However, Bretts' sales were up 13 per cent as its strategy of more outlets and expanding its product range paid off. The company now has annual turnover of about $100 million.

The company opened a steel frame and truss fabrication facility at its Geebung manufacturing plant last year, beginning a new chapter for the business, which started operations from a sawmill at Windsor.

Mr Nutting, whose great uncle JF Brett founded the business, said Bretts also was establishing a modular housing operation particularly focusing on affordable housing.

The new Bunnings Warehouse, Newstead. Picture: AAP Image/Richard Walker
The new Bunnings Warehouse, Newstead. Picture: AAP Image/Richard Walker