Bunnings’ chief customer officer Ryan Baker has worked at the hardware chain for more than 20 years. Here, he shares insights into the company’s evolution and culture, and his own career journey. Inside Retail: What has your career journey been like, and how has it shaped your approach to leadership and customer service? Ryan Baker: I started my career at a local supermarket chain in Queensland, which is where my love of retail began. It wasn’t long after that I joined the Bunnings tea
gs team, and that decision was largely driven by the reputation the business had for having a great culture. I’ve spent the majority of my time at Bunnings in operations roles, starting at a store level, working my way up through more senior leadership positions, and eventually to director of operations. These roles took me all over the country, including a memorable stint in Western Australia as the state operations manager. I’ve had a lot of success in driving growth and performance across the business but for me, the most rewarding experiences have been the opportunities to develop teams and work with some incredible people. I’m grateful for the pathway I’ve had and how it’s helped shape me as a leader, as well as the unique perspective and experience it’s given me that I can apply in my current role as chief customer officer. I know I have lots more to learn and that’s really motivating. IR: How has the organisation changed over the past 20-plus years that you’ve been working there, and why have you chosen to stay at Bunnings for all that time? RB: The great thing about working for Bunnings is that the business is always evolving, and having been here for more than 20 years, I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of some exciting change. We’ve obviously grown significantly in size, but we’ve also seen some shifts in our offer and the experience for our customers. The obvious one is the role technology has played, as we’ve progressed from a primarily bricks-and-mortar business to one that has a comprehensive digital offer that complements our in-store experience. The other is the evolution and innovation that have occurred through our products and services – as it’s critical that we remain relevant to our customers. The most obvious recent example was the major expansion of our pets category, which was the largest category expansion for Bunnings in two decades. That being said, there are still some things that haven’t changed in all this time. For instance, our support for the communities in which we operate – whether it’s the sausage sizzle, activities in-store, or our team who are out in their local community providing hands-on support through various projects or initiatives. The reason I’ve spent the last 22 years at Bunnings is pretty simple, really – it’s just a great place to work and grow, which is driven by our team and our culture. IR: Tell me more about the expansion into pet care. What potential do you see in this space, and how is it performing so far? RB: We have a strong track record of expanding categories and we see a lot of growth potential in pets. We know pets form an important part of households across Australia, and as a home and lifestyle retailer, we felt it made sense to offer an expanded range. Prior to the launch, we did a lot of research to understand the opportunity, and to understand exactly what it is that customers need and want in this space. We felt like our stores were a natural place for customers to pick up the supplies they need for their pets while making regular trips to our stores for other household items. We’ve seen a really positive response to the range so far, so we know it’s resonating with our customers. The launch exceeded our expectations and we have maintained that momentum ever since. Our data is also telling us that we’re tapping into a new customer base that hasn’t shopped with us previously, which is promising. IR: Are there any other product categories you see Bunnings entering over the next few years? RB: We’re always looking at ways to innovate our offer and expand our existing range. One area where customers will notice a real step up is in cleaning. We’ve recently trialled the introduction of market-leading brands like Omo and Finish, which has been well-received. It is something we are looking to roll out in a much bigger way, with more key brands, bulk volumes and great value. We’re also exploring other opportunities across categories like outdoor recreation. It’s clear that people are embracing outdoor experiences, so for summer we’re trialling a new camping range that brings together a core range in-store with an extended range available from trusted sellers through our marketplace. IR: You mentioned the great culture that Bunnings is known for. Can you tell me more about this? RB: A phrase you’ll often hear around Bunnings is ‘We live here, too’. That’s in reference to the fact that many of our team live, work and raise families in the roughly 400 communities where we operate, including many regional and rural areas. We always try to put our team first and work hard to provide a supportive working environment for them to thrive in and grow their career. We invest significantly in training and development. Our team has completed over 640,000 hours of training over the past 12 months, including over 387,000 hours of product-specific training, with that knowledge and expertise getting passed down to our customers. Providing leadership training and clear career pathways is a huge focus and motivator. IR: Having seen Bunnings evolve over the past 20 years, what changes do you anticipate over the next two decades? RB: What we’re focused on is how we can maintain trust, listen to our customers and anticipate evolving preferences. A big part of that will be how we can innovate and remain relevant through the products and services we offer. We know that technology will play a big role so it will be important for us to be on the front foot and continue to invest in projects and initiatives that can enhance the customer experience. We have a dedicated innovation lab that’s always coming up with creative concepts, and we’re excited about some of the trials we have in the pipeline that leverage technology to improve the customer experience.