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First Masters store opens

Masters – the home improvement concept three years in the planning – opens its first store in Melbourne, tomorrow, September 1.
And the target is still 150 stores in what CEO Don Stallings told Inside Retail will be the fastest store rollout program in Australia’s history. 
The first 13,500sqm store is in the less-than-affluent Melbourne suburb of Braybrook in a new development on the site of an abandoned factory and which will also be home to a new BCF store. 
It boasts 35,000 SKUs but it is much more than just a rival for Wesfarmers’ Bunnings as most media have been speculating. 
Masters is a joint venture between Woolworths Australia and US hardware giant Lowes. But it bears little resemblance to current retail offers from either of its parents and the chain is being developed as an independent entity with little if any interference from Woolworths or Lowes.
A big strength of the store is its approach to home solutions rather than just a big box hardware format. Masters will stock full kitchens – including an array of appliances at all points on the price spectrum, a lighting department to rival any specialist lighting store, carpets and floor coverings and financing options. 
With bright lights, better floors, air conditioning, a mother’s room, a McDonald’s with a playground and a colourful garden centre, the store aims to target women and families. 
But at the other end of the spectrum it features a drive-through area for trade customers, comfortable office facilities and trade accounts for the customers Masters expects will account for 50 per cent of its turnover. 
Stallings says each store will turn over in excess of $23 million, some more than $30 million, depending on their location.

Masters is pitching its offer as high-end products to the mass market. But stock is a quality offer, not cheap and nasty. 

When Masters gains sufficient marketplace momentum, consumers can expect prices to fall in rival chains, especially lighting stores, rug and carpet retailers and some homewares chains as Masters eats into margins by sourcing stock direct from factories around the world – including Australia. 
The new store has a commitment to beat competitors’ prices by 10 per cent.

Store numbers will grow rapidly in coming months with four under completion in Queensland, another in Melbourne and the first Sydney store – in the far outer west possibly opening by Christmas. Twelve others are already under construction, including one at Canberra Airport.

A comprehensive review of the Masters concept will be published in Friday’s Inside Retail, including photographs.

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