Shoppers are lashing out at Bunnings staff after finding empty shelves in stores as the nation faces a shortage of a key material that could last months.
Staff have been abused and faced aggressive customers due to Australia’s timber shortage, amid fears that the scarcity could result in delays of six to eight weeks for home building, as well as renovations.
Bunnings told The Herald Sun that it would not tolerate abuse of its staff after experiencing “unprecedented demand” for timber.
“We know constraints are causing some frustrations for people across the industry,” said Bunnings’ merchandise general manager, Toby Watson.
“The vast majority of our customers have been understanding and we support our team if they face any challenging conversations and take a zero-tolerance approach to inappropriate behaviour.”
The shortage, which has been predicted to last for six months, has also resulted in price increases, although Bunnings said it was working to minimise this as much as possible.
“We’re working with our suppliers and trade customers to forecast demand and plan earlier in the build process so we have additional time to manage orders as best as possible,” Mr Watson said.
Housing Industry of Australia chief economist, Tim Reardon, attributed the shortage to a huge uptake in the federal government’s HomeBuilder scheme and “enormous” demand from overseas.
Mr Reardon predicted that the construction boom would continue until the middle of next year, but timber supply should improve as domestic manufacturing increased, while steel could also be used as an alternative.
Just last month, shoppers at Bunnings revealed multiple stores had been completely stripped of a particular product as a result of a crisis in regional NSW.
Customers in Lithgow and Orange shared photos on Twitter showing the mouse bait and rodent trap section completely emptied out in their local Bunnings.
Bunnings garden category manager Belinda Rakers told news.com.au stock of rodent traps and bait had been depleted, and they were working to get more supply as quickly as possible.
Wesfarmers, owner of Bunnings, reported this week that “housing churn” – referring to Australia’s overheated residential property market – was a key driver of current consumer behaviour and it was seeking to offer more “on-trend products”, continuing its shift to selling a room concept or particular project.
Bunnings is also investing heavily to attract more business from tradies, including the purchase of Adelaide Tools and Beaumont Tiles, and using online and mobile technology to make their purchases easier.