These are the independent hardware stores judged best in class in a hotly competitive field to take home national titles at the 2018 IHG Awards of Excellence.

Just in time to meet our deadline, the winning stores were announced at the 2018 Independent Hardware Group (IHG) Awards of Excellence. With hundreds of independent hardware stores from across the country in attendance at a gala dinner in Adelaide, eight stores were named as winners in their respective categories, based on their innovative, customer-focused performance over the previous year.

Ranging from large trade stores to convenient retail/DIY hardware outlets, from generational operations to relatively new kids on the block, the winners were united in providing excellent service, clever solutions and a commitment to improving the lives of independent retailers.

The next issue of TTN will feature the Supplier and Individual Award winners. But for now, the 2018 National Store of the Year winners are…


Johnson Bros Mitre 10, Mona Vale, NSW

Beginning its days as Johnson Bros Hardware in Rydalmere, founded by John and Bob Johnson in 1955, the business has gone from strength to strength over the years, moving to Mona Vale in 2003. These days, operational running is left to John’s sons, daughters and grandchildren.

In early 2017, the Mona Vale store relocated from Mona Vale Road to Basset Street, a greenfield site that allowed for a 4000m2 store with high ceilings that both give a great sense of space and allow for easy movement of product within the store.

The move also allowed Johnson Bros to reinvest through IHG’s Sapphire transformation retail program, which has seen the business go from strength to strength. Double-digit sales growth has continued 18 months on from project completion, and they remain a benchmark as a Sapphire ‘store of the future’.

A true ‘one-stop-shop’, Johnson Bros has over 150 parking spaces, separate double-width driveways for both retail and trade, an extensive garden centre, Dulux trade outlet, a kitchen and bathroom selection centre and fully undercover drive through. The team strives for business improvement and recently implemented a new electronic employee pay system and cloud-based POS for efficiencies.

Family values are central to the business with 16 second- and third-generation family members now working in the company. Community support includes over 30 sponsorships of local groups and charities.


Kincumber Mitre 10, NSW

Steve McCumstie and Peter Steele are famous on the NSW Central Coast for their community-minded family business that puts loyalty and service ahead of anything else. Their support for local fundraising initiatives includes Free Trade Day: the donation of free trade services and material to families who have fallen on hard times.

The completion of Sapphire in 2017 has generated solid 15% sales growth. The team operates under a simple business mantra to offer ‘fair pricing, guaranteed service and the ability to adjust to our customers’ needs’.

In addition to their customer-focused work, Peter and Steve are leaders within their IHG region – Hunter Coast Village – continuously making themselves and their store available for other members to visit and review Sapphire outcomes. Peter is chairman of the NSW LAM committee and a vocal advocate for IHG programs.


Sunlite Mitre 10, York Street, NSW

Steven Czeiger’s vision for an inner-city hardware offer with a modern twist has been perfectly executed at this latest CBD location. Completing the Sapphire transformation in 2017 – the fifth project for the Sunlite Group – the presentation of the 280m2 York Street store is immaculate and displays an extensive breadth of range to suit local demographics.

This is a business built on people. The staff bring enthusiasm and camaraderie as well as expertise to their work, creating exceptionally close relationships with customers. The Mighty Rewards program offers benefits for every purchase, plus targeted sales information and click’n’collect.

Mighty Rewards membership now surpasses 16,000 customers with 59% contactable email addresses. An outstanding example of the sales leverage that can be gained from an effective loyalty program.


T.M.&H. Home Timber & Hardware, Moe, Vic

The Hitchins and Gorman families have quietly grown their Moe business over the last 30 years to become a real powerhouse player in the Gippsland market – sales are currently tracking 7% up YTD.

The well-presented 2000m2-plus store is extremely well presented and merchandised across both retail and trade. Key points of difference including a STIHL workshop and repairs, a Makita dealership, flooring display, sheds, a bathroom and kitchen display centre, as well as appliances and whitegoods.

Regular events, including their popular Ladies Nights and Trade Breakfasts, help build customer relationships, as does the same-day delivery service.

The team are in the early stages of Sapphire transformation and converting to Mitre 10 as part of a long-term plan to take the store to the next level.


Jurien Bay Hardware WA

Positioned on a small 800m2 footprint, Jurien Bay HTH packs a solid punch for its size, with owners Clinton and Lily Strugnell committed to initiatives that make their business the Best Store In Town.

This past year, a makeover has improved store design, creating an easier shopping experience for local and seasonal customers, plus reintroducing a Garden Centre to secure additional sales. Weber and STIHL products, Swap N Go and pool testing are all part of their locally designed, one-stop hardware offer.

The team are extremely well-connected to the local Jurien Bay community and get involved in numerous local projects with their tradies, as well as sponsoring sporting and community groups in Jurien, Cervantes, Green Head and Badgingarra.

The Strugnells regularly attend IHG Village and Cluster meetings, where they bring positivity and direction to discussions. Clinton is regularly called on for testimonials on IHG initiatives among his peers.


Port Broughton Thrifty-Link Hardware SA

Last year’s national winners continue to set a high benchmark for convenience hardware. Mark and Kaye Bellman work to lift store standards by implementing range and price reviews, including recent sales strategy success with Accent paint and Dulux.

Mark and Kaye maintain a close eye on any opportunity to grow their business and keep pace with their customers’ changing needs. Their relationships with Makita and Weber are great examples of this tactic, successfully introducing the brands’ new ranges through a structured LAM campaign to build awareness among local and seasonal shoppers.

Both Mark and Kaye are great supporters of IHG and the unity of the independent network to combat the growing threat of large corporates. Mark is one of the leaders in the local CFS and the family are involved with many local sporting clubs.


Provans Home Timber & Hardware, Clifton Hill VIC

You’d be hard pressed to find a more impressive trade outlet in the highly competitive Melbourne market than at Provans. The team, led by Barry, Jarrod and Marnie Rosenberg, continue to improve in all aspects of trade execution with efficiency and professionalism.

The purpose-built site, constructed in 2015, has been an overwhelming success for the Rosenberg family, growing their customer base and increasing spend from existing builder accounts. The layout and range was specifically designed to service trade customers and incorporates all key elements such as multi-lane drive through, dedicated trade desk, fully undercover timber and logical traffic flow to the shop floor.

The majority of their business is generated from structural timbers but they also specialise in furniture-grade hardwoods, western red cedar and other unusual species. Upstairs features a large showroom for finishing items such as doors, flooring, skirting, architraves, cladding and decking. The team pride themselves on being a reliable business partner to their customers – the introduction of a food truck/coffee van in the drive-through and the decision to move to 6.30am openings came as a direct result of listening to their tradies. They’re also ready and willing to work alongside other IHG trade members and regularly facilitate store tours in support of IHG’s Family Village Tribe culture.


McLaren Vale Mitre 10 SA

When Mark Loveday, Brian Lawrence and Linda Provis took ownership of this store, it had a Garden Centre that was already at the top of its game, but they have continued to reinvest in new ranges and store presentation to create a fresh and inviting offer for locals. With a history of managing and building award-winning stores, Mark has managed to raise the bar yet again since taking on this venture.

Management invests in their people by developing their team and employing knowledgeable and experienced Garden Centre staff to build trust amongst customers. The store is famous for promoting bulk pot offers and soil ranges.

The business has strong brand commitment and compliance, and executes effective LAM campaigns to promote their range and expertise to the market. Having won the 2018 Hardware Australia SA garden centre award, this award is yet another ‘feather in the cap’ for the team.


Western Planers NSW

In the face of some of the driest conditions on record in regional NSW, this region’s members have fostered a culture of cohesive thinking and adaptability. Collectively the stores have driven growth in Trade Sales by 10%. Staff development has been a focal point with eLearning module completion doubling in 12 months to 700 units.