Woolworths’ Recruiting Drive

As the photographs on this page confirm, the new Woolworths-Lowe’s home improvement concept known as Project Oxygen has begun recruiting store employees. During a recent investigative foray in Melbourne’s western suburbs, Australian Hardware Journal discovered the 330 Ballarat Road, Braybrook store well under way and that the ground had been levelled on the Burnside site a few kilometres further west.

Interestingly, the Burnside site is directly opposite a new Bunnings warehouse that’s also under construction but looks likely to open its doors first, thus gaining a competitive advantage. But the Burnside Woolworths-Lowe’s store looks like it will dwarf its rival, though it’s difficult to accurately conclude that to be the case without viewing the plans of both stores. The Braybrook store gives a clearer picture. Concrete walls and roofing have been erected on the rear half of the site, which fills an entire block. Presumably, the front half of the site has been left for car parking, with distribution and storage facilities to be located at the rear. Signs erected around the perimeter fence indicate the construction company, project managers and consulting engineers as Vaughan Constructions, Robert Luxmoore and Cardno Grogan Richards. Vaughan Constructions are also contractors on the Burnside site.

But the sign attracting the most interest was the recruitment banner for department managers, product specialists, customer service associates and service cashiers. Applicants were asked whether they ‘Want to be part of the next big thing in Home Improvement?’ above directions to a non-descript, second-floor office located above a retail furniture business that’s roughly midway between the Braybrook and Burnside stores. When AHJ enquired about the commencement date of the new jobs, the reply was the standard line that has been rolled out over recent months: “During the second half of 2011.”

In its recent half-yearly report to the Australian Stock Exchange, Woolworths stated that it was making ‘good progress’ on its home improvement joint venture with Lowe’s. Store Managers were said to have been recruited and have undertaken training at Lowe’s facilities. Other ‘milestones’ reported by Woolworths included the commencement of operations at its distribution centre in Hoppers Crossing (west of Melbourne), the identification and negotiation of approximately 40,000 items to be sold throughout the stores, and an approximation of 15 to 20 stores commencing operations within 18 months of the first store opening.

A second distribution centre should be operational in the first six months of 2012, and much of the home improvement store design leverages Lowe’s current operations and processes. Systems and decision support tools will ‘leverage’ the supply chains in place for Woolworths’ Food and Liquor and General Merchandise businesses.

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