Bunnings says Woolworths hardware stores are thwarting planning laws

BUNNINGS has accused Woolworths of circumventing planning laws, as the supermarket giant attempts to enter the hardware sector, according to a Fairfax report. As part of its joint venture with US home improvement retailer, Lowes, Woolworths has ambitions of securing 150 sites for large format hardware stores within five years.

According to the report, in a submission to the Victorian Government advisory committee, Bunnings claims Woolworths and Lowes are getting a "free kick" and a "valuable gift" from the rezoning of industrial land.

The dispute concerns Woolworths' key strategy of offering whitegoods and electronic equipment, in addition to standard hardware offerings. The Fairfax report states that Bunnings has hired a Queen's Counsel to express its concerns over Woolworths' alleged attempts to circumvent planning laws.

Declaring the new stores a "major project", Victorian Planning Minister Justin Madden has already taken control of the Woolworths planning applications from local councils. As a result, Bunnings believes this will help Woolworths bypass planning regulations that Bunnings faced when setting up its portfolio of warehouse stores.

The report says that Woolworths needs seven of its 11 Victorian sites rezoned from ''trade supplies'' to ''restricted retail supplies'' in order to sell whitegoods and similar products.

Woolworths is proposing to develop the first of its large format hardware stores in Victoria at Coolaroo, Burnside, Preston, Hawthorn East, Oakleigh South, South Morang, Mornington, Wendouree, Geelong, Knoxfield, and Carrum Downs. A proposed store at Bendigo is reportedly not going ahead.

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