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  • Writer's pictureKate Bolland

Innovation in action – spotlight on recent retail innovations in NZ & AUS

Kate Bolland, RX Group's marketing executive, shares her thoughts on recent retail innovations across New Zealand and Australia. From Bunnings collaboration with Bluey, to Uber, Aesop and Farro, check out the great innovations happening in our backyard!


In a fast-moving world driven by technology, retailers must innovate to drive growth. From bricks-and-mortar stores to e-commerce giants, the push for creativity and adaptation has become imperative to thrive in a competitive market.  

Innovation in retail is all about offering consumers new or an improvement in its technology, services, products or business systems. It's all about providing added value to customers and getting ahead of the competition.

In this article, I’ll discuss four retailers in NZ or Australia who are creatively championing innovation in a distinct and unique way to engage their customer.

Bunnings x Bluey Hammerbarn  

Bunnings has teamed up with popular kids TV show Bluey to recreate Hammerbarn. I had to do a bit of research on Bluey as I’m sliiightly outside of their target age range.

Bluey (if you didn’t already know) is a hit kids TV show, which revolves around the adventures of an Australian blue heeler puppy and her family. Hammerbarn is featured on a much-loved Bluey episode involving a classic weekend trip to the local hardware store. The show is a global phenomenon with: 

  • 44 billion minutes watched in the US last year 

  • Is the most popular show on TVNZ+ with more than 53 million streams in 2023 

  • Won an Emmy in 2020 for Best Preschool Programming 

Seven Bunnings stores across Australia and New Zealand have received a Hammerbarn-themed transformation for the month. Including exterior signage and branding, free Bluey-themed kids DIY workshops on weekends, Bluey gnomes for sale, in-store scavenger hunt and even staff uniforms and kids trolleys with Bluey branding. 

I checked out the Glenfield Hammerbarn and was impressed! So many young children were dragging their parents in-store and running up and down the aisles with excitement trying to complete the bluey scavenger hunt. 

My key thoughts on this innovative brand collaboration: 

  • Bunnings bold move in removing their brand name resulted in a richer brand salience  

  • They have built an army of future Bunnings customers with the younger generation  

  • Huge increase in foot-traffic and sales as kids beg their parents to take them to the hardware store 

  • Bunnings have really made an effort to create an enjoyable and engaging experience for their customers

Bunnings Hammerbarn transformation was an innovative and playful move, ultimately creating raving fans and setting themselves apart from the competition. Well-done Bunnings 👏



Innovation doesn’t always mean adopting the latest and greatest technology.

It's about listening to your customers and pivoting to meet their needs and provide value.

Uber recently announced a new phone line booking service for Australian customers.

They acknowledged that booking through an app isn’t every Australian’s preference. Research found that: 

  • 93% of Australians aged 65+ saying their preferred method for booking a service is over the phone 

  • 43% don’t feel confident in booking via mobile apps 

As many countries are shifting towards an aging population (according to the UN, 16 counties will reach a median age of 50 years or higher between now and 2050) it’s vital to deeply understand your customers and meet their needs.  

Yes, build that new app to create a seamless customer experience BUT, do not forget about the older generations and making things easier for them too.  


Aesop’s Queer Library  

On the weekend of Auckland Pride Festival in Ponsonby, Aesop hosted a Queer Library. This initiative has popped up all over the globe, with an aim that telling queer stories can have a significant impact on the queer community and its allies, through reading and discussing novels in a safe environment.  

The Ponsonby store was transformed into a library full of books written by people in the LGBTQIA+ community. I was warmly welcomed into the store (even offered a croissant) and a staff member explained the Queer Library and said take your time to have a read and choose a book to take home at no cost. 

My thoughts: 

  • Great feeling in-store, lots of people there reading books and trialling products  

  • Loved how they had considered the finer details in stamping your chosen book with an Aesop Queer Library stamp and putting a bookmark in there (genius, people will be thinking about Aesop every-time they pick up the book)

  • I left feeling amazing about the experience, ended up making some purchases and now would definitely consider the brand when purchasing in that category where previously I would only think to go to Mecca 

Overall, the Aesop Queer Library is an innovative, considered approach to celebrating pride month as well as driving traffic in-store and building strong awareness and customer relationships. 


Farro's new Smales Farm store

Farro has opened the doors to its seventh store, located in the North Shore’s Smales Farm precinct. This innovative new space has the classic Farro features but has brought a fresh take on the grocery experience with a market-style atmosphere.  

The market-style layout and fixtures made the space a much more engaging experience. With a very popular hot lunch counter, butchery counter, in-house fishmonger, fridge section dedicated to the Farro Kitchen with their pre-made meals and a gorgeous pub-themed wine and beer cellar – The Cork & Cap, there is lots for visitors to explore!

With the acceleration of online grocery shopping, click and collect grocery services and a large range of different delivered food box options thanks to covid, supermarkets need to be innovative and engaging to provide a reason for shoppers to step foot in-store.

Farro Smales farm gives customers a reason to come in store, and recreates that going to the farmers market on the weekend feel. Something you simply can't get when ubereats-ing from your local supermarket.

This store's well-thought and crafted design provides value and an engaging experience for customers. And, is extremely convenient for local workers as a one-stop shop for an easy lunch and to pick up a tasty meal for dinner.

My only one comment on missed-opportunities would be lack of navigation around vegetarian/gf/df produce (guess what I am).


It's brilliant to see some light at the end of a tunnel and newness, fun and innovation coming back into New Zealand and Australian retail following tough times.

Bunnings, Uber, Aesop and Farro have all innovatively and uniquely offered their customers an improvement in service, product or experience and added meaningful, strategic value.

Amazing work!


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