Bunnings managing director Mike Schneider said at an investor briefing on Wednesday that the online store would be rolled out across the country over the next year-and-a-half.
The website already has a large audience who come to Bunnings online for DIY instructional videos, and to do product research before transacting in store.
Mr Schneider said the online store would be more convenient for those customers.
“A product that sells out almost every weekend is turf – we’ll put two or three pallets of turf in the store and it’s gone sometimes on the Friday night because customers want to secure that stock,” he said.
“That online purchasing … will help customers be more confident they’re not driving to a couple of Bunnings stores on a weekend to fill out the project.”
Bunnings’ existing home delivery service will be available for products bought online, but it expects most shoppers to use “click and collect” to buy online and collect in store.
Mr Schneider said he was confident Bunnings could offset the extra cost of having staff picking stock off store shelves for online orders. Freeing up staff by replacing hand-written signs and price tickets with digital tickets is one option being considered.
Bunnings has been a stand-out performer in Australia’s struggling retail sector, delivering double-digit earnings growth in each of the past three years, and annual sales growth of about 8 per cent since 2013.
The chain’s conglomerate owner, Wesfarmers, last year spun-off its biggest business Coles in part to give investors more exposure to Bunnings’ runaway growth, and it now accounts for about 60 per cent of Wesfarmers’ earnings.
But there have been questions about how the slowing housing market will affect Bunnings, as housing turnover slows and there is less demand for renovations.
On Wednesday Mr Schneider talked down these concerns, pointing to the fact that 7 million of Australia’s 10 million existing homes were more than 20-years-old and need maintenance.
Bunnings could continue to grow faster than the overall market by widening the categories it stocks, moving into home storage, outdoor furniture, and smart home products, he said.
While the business has about a 50 per cent share of the home DIY market, that falls to less than 10 per cent in bathrooms, kitchens, window furnishings and floors – all categories Mr Schneider said Bunnings was trying to grow.
The company is also chasing a bigger chunk of the trade market, which accounts for at least 35 per cent of its sales now but it thinks can grow to 50 per cent.