Adelaide’s best bathrooms

Store Name:
Adelaide Plumbing and Building Centre

Group managers:
Elias Demourtzidis

Buying group:
Buyers Independent Group of Australia

The Adelaide Plumbing and Building Centre, just outside the central business district, promises its trade and retail customers prestige bathroom and kitchen products, along with expertise in both plumbing and design

Australian homeowners have always loved to renovate. While it used to be that any dollar invested in their home would bring back two when it came time to sell, the cooling of urban property markets here has only slightly reduced our propensity to update our homes. These days, home renovators are doing it for the love of individual style and design, much more at least than for the potential financial rewards. And when it comes to style and design for bathroom products, renovators in South Australia’s capital will typically start their search at the Adelaide Plumbing and Building Centre (APBC). The family-owned business is one of Adelaide’s leading suppliers of bathroom, kitchen, and laundry hardware, as well as hot water units, and doors. Its showroom in Thebarton, just a kilometre from the Adelaide central business district, is one of the largest single retail spaces in the state, with complete functioning displays of full bathrooms and kitchens so customers can see how products look in the home.

Established in 1980 by Manuel Demourtzidis, the business has maintained the same busy location for all of its 32 years. Elias Demourtzidis has since taken over the management of APBC, though Manuel maintains a stake in its affairs as an ongoing director. Elias describes the opportunity to manage the full operation as one of the best and most exciting experiences of his life-long career in the hardware sector. “A new generation of management meant we kept up to date with trends,” he told Australian Hardware Journal. Certainly, that new generation is translating well on to the APBC’s balance sheet, particularly over the last year. Elias says trading for the most recent business quarter was up 15% when compared with the same period in 2011. He puts this down to the business’s recently-updated showrooms that now offer a wide range of boutique brands and products. “We are now displaying the world’s leading brands, like Villeroy & Boch, Bette, Grohe Franke, and Hansgrohe,” Elias said. “These brands can’t be purchased at (just) any store. Only boutique stores like us can sell these products.” Given this brand exclusivity, and a well-deserved reputation for customer service and staff expertise, APBC is the favoured choice for an ever-widening range of clientele. As well as builders and renovators, architects, interior designers, and amateur DIYers all browse the showroom for unique styles, designs, and layout ideas.

Elias says this superior product range and innovative presentation are complimented further by APBC’s close attention to the customer service, product knowledge, and professional expertise of the store’s staff. “We have experienced, well-trained staff, and great service,” he says. “The APBC philosophy is to make customers’ lives easier by providing a wide range of quality products with professional and reliable advice,” he says. “We go out of our way to help and satisfy customer needs (with) great emphasis on the right selections to suit applications, lifestyles and budgets.”

The staff and product selection team is made up of professional consultants: “some of the most experienced and knowledgeable people in the industry.” Elias says. “They can help you with your every need when it comes to product selection to transform your renovation or building project.” Regular staff training includes seminars from a number of suppliers, giving APBC employees an improved understanding of the function and features of several key product ranges, as well as lessons in sales tactics and customer service.

Tough trading conditions
While these factors all add up to a successful business and trading atmosphere for Elias and the APBC family, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Indeed, there are several external factors that continue to place pressure on margins and customer loyalty. The popularity of online sales in particular raises his ire. While APBC does have a website, its function is to drive traffic to the store, offering visitors just a glimpse of the exclusive product list and stylish designs available there. It does not have an online sales option, quite deliberately Elias says.

“I am selling world-leading brands in the showroom and I would hate for people to be purchasing them online just for price.” He says online trading is one of the biggest issues facing all hardware retailers at the moment, but he is confident the dedication to customer service and advice will keep higher value customers coming to the store. His business model allows them to purchase full ranges of products with the added confidence of staff expertise and the chance to see them fully set up and working before the transaction takes place.

The rise of the warehouse-style hardware store also creates constant concern for Elias and APBC. Over 20 years in the business, he says he has seen countless other family-owned businesses shut their doors because of the increased competition from fast-growing and all-encompassing retail brands.

“Seeing other family-owned businesses close down because of (brands such as Bunnings and Masters) is among the worst experiences in my career,” he says. Still, APBC’s specialisation insulates it somewhat from the more general hardware retail chains, with Elias noting that its main competitor is Reece Plumbing. Reece is a 400-store national chain with 10 plumbing centres and a single bathroom showroom in Adelaide’s metropolitan area, but Elias says APBC competes well against it thanks to its premium brands, and well-known staff expertise.

Sourcing dreams

APBC proudly maintains its independence – Elias is confident it can continue to source great products and deals for all of its customers whether they are on the trade professional or retail side of the fence. It does maintain membership of the Buyers Independent Group of Australia, a construction sector buying group with a unique specialisation in bathroom products. Elias says the business is also signed up to the Housing Industry Association.

Those connections help to deliver great value and choice for APBC’s customers, as well as promote the business to trade-level buyers in the construction industry. But Elias says the constant factor that maintains customer loyalty for the APBC is its ability to create kitchens and bathrooms that astound and wow homeowners for their style and innovation.

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