The Independent Hardware Group is taking its annual networking and awards events online.
When no one knows if they’ll be able to travel to the 2021 IHG Expo, IHG’s simple answer is to bring the Expo to their members instead. From 22–26 February, IHG Virtual Expo will come into members’ stores and connect them with over 200 key suppliers to network, learn, make deals and explore new business opportunities.
Using an interactive and easy-to-navigate online platform that allows visitors to customise their Expo experience, IHG has thrown open the doors to ensure more people working at the store can experience Expo than was ever possible at a physical event. While official proceedings will run from 10am to 5pm daily, the virtual showcase from suppliers will be available 24 hours, so even the busiest store owners will be able to peruse what’s on offer and leave comments and questions for suppliers who can make appointments to talk at a time that suits.
The traditional Executive Business Sessions and keynote speakers will take place on the first day as usual, sharing bold new ideas with the membership that will help drive growth through 2021 and beyond.
On the remaining four days, a mix of education through webinars and learning labs and shopping at the Expo will keep members busy. A virtual showbag will hold all the information from suppliers that members are interested in and all platform content will remain on-demand for attendees until March.
The prestigious IHG Awards Ceremony will also be broadcast online during Expo Week to celebrate the best of the Group with State Finalists coming together to compete for the national titles. Read on for the list of nominees in the store categories.
This award recognises Thrifty-Link and True Value stores – seriously local hardware stores that are there to meet the needs of their communities.
WA – Manjimup Motors True Value Hardware This store has proven time and again that they punch well above their weight with great customer service, ranging and standards that make this a destination store for many in the community. Maree and Jeff Hurley have overseen steady growth through 2020, and credit their great staff for making that possible.
VIC & TAS –Trafalgar True Value Hardware Gary and Sarah Jenkins work hard to keep the immaculate store relevant to the needs of their community. They’ve recently added a Garden and Green Life section to meet local need and also a Support Local section as part of a wider local initiative.
SA & NT– Port Broughton Thrifty-Link Hardware A true family business that has been owned and managed by multiple generations and won many national awards over the years. Mark, Kay and Kate Bellman continue to uphold those standards and remain tied to their community through the CFS as well as the store. Mark credits his staff and the warehousing team at IHG for helping them to get through a very odd year.
QLD – Woodgate Beach Hardware Thrifty-Link A small store, but one with a great offer for their local community and extremely high standards of stock and display. Denis and Diane Ham and their tight-knit team bring hardware expertise to their local area.
NSW & ACT – Bungendore Rural Services Thrifty-Link Greg Simms, Matt Rombouts and the team at this store have been working hard to lift standards throughout the business, focusing on expanding the product range in the retail and trade spaces. During the devastating Black Summer fires, the team were key supports for their local community.
This award celebrates garden centres across all the IHG brands, ranging from small specialist centres to sprawling nurseries. Each has its own way of meeting the needs of local customers.
WA – Tuckey’s Mitre 10, Pinjarra The competition was exceptionally close this year, but this store’s dedicated customer base and highly committed staff gained it the win. An exemplary garden centre layout and tremendous offer of plants and products merchandised to the highest standard is supported by highly sustainable practices including recirculated water. Peta and John Tuckey credit the “dedicated ladies who run the garden centre” for their state win.
VIC & TAS – Diamond Valley Mitre 10 A five paint-brush store with the garden centre beautifully presented and service that’s second-to-none. The team are constantly reviewing ranges and use social media extremely well to engage with their local community and promote their business.
SA & NT– McLaren Vale Mitre 10 The standard across all of the state finalists set the benchmark not just in SA, but nationally. To come out on top, this store focused on presentation and overall shopping experience. During Covid, the store managed to maintain healthy stock levels and quick service even when plants were in high demand. Anthony Butz, the garden centre manager, is both happily obsessed and expert when it comes to plants.
QLD – Emerald Mitre 10 Eye-catching displays and innovation in promoting sales have made this store into a destination garden centre. Strong community involvement has cemented its role as a key part of local life.
NSW – Gubbins Pulbrook Mitre 10 Moss Vale In a huge year for garden sales, this store’s extensive power garden tool offer and Green Life range, along with their very helpful staff has helped it stand above a very competitive state field. The garden centre is a key part of the Moss Vale store and brings people in to shop from all over the Southern Highlands.
MITRE 10 SMALL FORMAT
These small stores, up to 1000m2, are rich in expertise, service and community spirit. Their focused ranges make the stores easy to navigate for people in a rush, while still meeting customer needs.
WA – Bindoon Mitre 10 This store’s level of presentation is second to none, and they couple that with an exceptional loyalty to the brand, as active contributors to village, regional and national meetings. Owner Brad Smith has invested significantly into his store, attracting new customers who had previously been shopping out of town. He credits his staff with the store’s success.
VIC & TAS – Rochester Mitre 10 Matt and Heather Hawker have concentrated on doing the basics well and providing what their customers need this year. As a result, even under Victoria’s Covid restrictions, they’ve grown their customer base. As well as having a team that “work their butts off”, the store has helped to trial new Mitre 10 systems and finesse their roll-out.
SA & NT– Strathalbyn Mitre 10 This store has maintained high standards year on year, reinvesting in improving the shopping experience for their customers as well as giving new ranges and categories a go. The small team, managed by Shane and David and under the leadership of Brad Fuss, has managed a big upswing in trade over the last year with aplomb.
QLD – Bundall Mitre 10 In a heavily competitive market, and just two years since they made the Sapphire transformation, every decision in this store is about putting the customer first, making sure they walk out of the store with everything they need to complete their project.
NSW – Sunlite Mitre 10, York St A consistent five paint-brush standard and thriving rewards program are two keys to this store’s retail success. They fit a lot into a small space and maximise sales of fast-selling lines, achieving very high stock turns with low stock weight. Meeting the needs of Central Sydney customers are a vibrant, expert team and extremely clever use of space that is a pleasure to shop.
HOME TIMBER & HARDWARE
Excellent standards, service and community engagement make these stores central to their local markets. With a trade focus, but not forgetting the retail market who like to shop where the experts shop, Home stores are built on meeting all their customer needs quickly and at great prices.
WA – Waroona Home Timber & Hardware Mark and Barbara Hiller work hard to make sure every department is merchandised and ranged to the highest possible standard. All the store’s departments are constantly under review to find what improvements can be made, and the staff are integral to that success.
VIC & TAS – Beaconsfield Home Timber & Hardware Set on four acres, Rohan Treasure and his team are keen participants in IHG initiatives and have worked hard to receive a five-paintbrush rating this year. It’s their 11th year as a Home store and 36th year in business and despite it being one of the oddest, they’ve kept their store shining.
SA & NT– Kies Home Timber & Hardware This truly local, independent business has an offer that keeps customers from driving out of town to buy their hardware, bringing personalised service to each and every customer. Andrew and Nigel Kies come from a pub-owning family that moved into hardware – not the easiest change! A new trade shed and expanded retail offer have kept the store competitive in the region.
QLD – Home Timber & Hardware Biloela In a tightly contested state, this store demonstrated pure commitment, with continual reinvestment in the business. The store has also been actively involved in the broader IHG goals and activities.
NSW – Narooma Building Supplies Kevin and Judy Cowley run a consistent five paint-brush store and their12-person team has shown a commitment to knowledge and growth in completing over 373 e-learning courses between them. The team was there for the community when Narooma became an evacuation centre during last summer’s fires and donated generators and tools where they were needed. With an eye to protecting their much-loved staff, many of whom are vulnerable to Covid, the store has operated successfully from a self-imposed Stage 4 lockdown during the pandemic and yet still showed similar growth in sales to other stores.
MITRE 10 MEDIUM FORMAT
These stores are in the Goldilocks zone, between 1000m2 and 2000m2 – big enough to cover almost every need, but small enough to get in and out quickly. They meet the daily needs of DIYers and tradies alike.
WA – Streeter & Male Mitre 10 Merchandised and ranged to within an inch of each department’s life, standards and best practice are second nature among the staff here and have resulted in double-digit growth in an environment driven mostly by tourism, with a big-box competitor on their doorstep. The store recently went off-grid with a state of the art solar system. Store manager Jody Cole says his staff are the reason customers keep coming back.
VIC & TAS – Pontings Mitre 10 A long-established business, they’ve continued to reinvest and find new and innovative ways to deliver to their community. Clever social media campaigns, Mighty Reward drives and colouring competitions for the kids have helped to increase community impact and a loyal, expert staff have kept the business thriving and customers happy.
SA & NT– Wills & Co Waikerie Mitre 10 Mike, Sharee and Josh Wills continue to create new experiences for customers, growing and innovating even through the difficulties of 2020. The store has a strong advertising strategy, based on social media and local print. A dedicated staff keep customers feeling comfortable and familiarised with the store and new ranges.
QLD – Parkside Mitre 10 Diane Tapiolas has heavily invested in their own business to make sure the stock and displays draw in customers and make it easy for them to find what they need. Add a focus on exceptional customer service and it’s a winning mix.
NSW – Kincumber Mitre 10 Peter Steele and Steve McCumstie and their team are highly engaged with their local community, delivering a wide offer to a high standard. They’re also leaders within the IHG network, with regular visits from other members seeking to learn about marketing and displays.
Open to all Mitre 10 and Home Timber & Hardware trade outlets, the stores nominated in this category represent the benchmark in trade and are driving the IHG group’s trade-focused strategy.
WA – Versatile Mitre 10 The trade drive-thru offers all trade customers the convenience of being able to park and load the majority of their needs easily. There is a dedicated trade desk convenient to the drive-thru, as well as a retail trade offer that is very well maintained and easily accessible. Owner Dom Stillitano is a dedicated member of the network and has driven the store through the Sapphire transformation as well as being the first WA store to implement Truck Tracker.
VIC & TAS – Hume & Iser Mitre 10 Stephen Iser and his store team recently completed a huge upgrade to focus on the trade needs of the Bendigo region. The store has been operating for 140 years and the staff are firmly local, which helped them to adapt quickly to the travails of Covid. At the same time, they’re also innovators, trialling new systems and sharing what they learned along the way.
SA & NT– Barossa Mitre 10 Whether organising tradie breakfasts or offering up trade deals to drive more business, this store is all about relationships with its customers. They’ve seen their trade sales steadily growing since their Sapphire rebuild, with their trade team also growing. Tweaks to stock and layout that better serve their customers’ needs and a team of committed individuals, from the floor staff to management and especially the trade team, have made all the difference.
QLD – Tully Mitre 10 Trade Centre This store has a fully functioning drive-thru with undercover timber and building supplies, making it an easy get in, get out, get on with it offer to the customer, backed up by an experienced and expert team since 1958.
NSW – Johnson Bros Mitre 10 The Johnson family were early adopters of IHG trade strategies and this store continues to maintain solid trade growth even with recent softening in the Sydney trade market. The trade centre was opened as part of the store’s Sapphire transformation and provides a straight drive-thru with undercover timber, coffee station and dedicated trade desk, helping customers to get in and out quickly. Deliveries are managed by Truck Tracker, making sure the customers always know where their order is.
MITRE 10 LARGE FORMAT
The ones that exemplify the brand’s Best Store in Town promise, these stores have everything the customer might need, no matter who they are. Staff need to possess broad knowledge along with specialist skills to make sure everyone leaves with what they need to get the job done.
WA – Margaret River Mitre 10 Another very tightly contested state competition was won by a store that is firmly entrenched in its community. Anne and Lloyd Shepherdson and their team have withstood downward pressure within the wider local market to keep their trade and retail customers engaged. A mix of intelligent marketing and attractive rewards programs have kept customers coming in, and the high-quality of service and expertise from the staff has kept those customers happy.
VIC & TAS – TM&H Mitre 10, Moe Jeff, Lynn, Laura and James Hitchins guided the store through its Sapphire transformation just 12 months ago and it’s already delivering incredible results. They are core members of the local community, with active fundraising and support programs, as well as fast responses to keep builders and families going through recent lockdowns.
SA & NT– McLaren Vale Mitre 10 This store has been continually seeking out opportunities for improvements large or small to stay wholly relevant for their customers. Mark and Fiona Loveday have been at the reins of the store for four years and, with their expert team, are focused on continual improvement of the displays, ranges and more.
QLD – Sunshine Mitre 10, Gympie This store has continued to grow in a tough and competitive market. It prides itself in its customer service, reflected in its month-on-month high scores in the Mystery Shopper program and have great customer service training for the team, including e-learning.
NSW – Johnson Bros Mitre 10 During 2020’s unprecedented customer traffic, the store standards never wavered and remained impeccable. The Johnson family started the store in 1955 and it is an institution in Sydney’s Northern beaches. The 4000m2 store recently added a new garden centre and cutting edge kitchen and bathroom showroom as part of their Sapphire transformation, truly a one-stop shop.
IHG’s member villages have been more important than ever this year, offering support as well as sharing the load of trialling innovations and new products. In one of the most difficult years in retail history when so many went above and beyond, it was hard to choose winners, but these regions stood out.
WA – Western Warriors
SA & NT – Central Diggers
QLD – Bush 2 Border
NSW & ACT – Northern Independents
VIC & TAS – Melbourne Traders & VIC Pioneers
Stay tuned for the National Winners in an upcoming edition of TTN!
Image: The Margaret River Mitre 10 team, finalists in the Mitre 10 Large Format category