And the winner is………Total Tools Ballarat!

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Total Tools Ballarat won the prestigious Franchise Store of the Year Award at the recent Total Tools Supplier Conference, held in South Australia in September. Owners Tim and Sally Feldman, were thrilled to win the award after opening the store over three years ago and said their success is based on fantastic customer service.

This is not the first time Total Tools Ballarat has taken out a prestigious group award. Just last year, the store was awarded the Total Tools Rookie Franchise of the Year, which is presented to the best new Total Tools store that has traded in the group for under three years.

Tim believes contributing factors that enabled his store to win the 2014 Total Tools Franchise Store of the Year award resonates mostly within his team.

“We really have a great team in our store who always goes that extra mile with customer service. I believe it is this, combined with our wide range of specialty trade tools, that keeps our customers coming back,” Tim said.

“The 1000 square metre store has grown steadily since we first opened in 2011. We attribute this growth to the strong marketing program which has been developed by our head office, along with local marketing which is designed specifically to suit the Ballarat market. This (makes the store a success) combined with good customer service and a decent offering of trade brands, as well as specialty trade products,” Tim said.

Total Tools head office has several different set criteria’s that must be met in order to win the awards. Some awards are based on the result of mystery shopping, while other awards are based on the operations side of a store, which includes ensuring all of the administration and safety procedures are up to date, according to Tim.

“So there’s lots of different criteria that can lead to winning an award, including if you have a range that is wider than other stores. We do offer quite a varied selection and I think this is because we have regional customers here as well, so we need to offer more of a cross market of products. We also make sure we are able to cater to our trade and rural customers as well,” Tim said.

A recent growth in the population of Ballarat has also assisted in the store’s growth, according to Tim, with more people choosing to move to Ballarat from metropolitan Melbourne and over 100,000 people now residing in the area. Some Ballarat residents choose to live in Ballarat, even if they have to commute to Melbourne on a daily basis.

“People moving from the city to enjoy the regional lifestyle has pushed good growth in the domestic housing sector, which in turn helps to grow our business. Living locally has also helped I think and making sure we employ locals is helpful as this assists us in building a strong relationship with the local tradies,” he said.

With some of the store’s best attributes being that it has over 8000 product lines tailored to the Ballarat market, Tim said that although the store predominantly caters to over 80 per cent tradies in its customer base, there are still a small percentage of customers who are not trades people and continue to purchase products in-store on a regular basis.

“Our customers are a mixture of tradies and serious DIY, who just like to get into it on the weekend and buy quality products. We make sure we continue to provide good service so they select the right product for what they’re doing,” Tim said.

Despite an abundance of competition locally, including Bunnings, Masters and trade specialty stores, the store’s sales continue to improve, he said.

When looking at the local demographics of the town of Ballarat and how this dictates to what is presented to customers in-store, Tim said the store has a real mixture of customers, including farmers, industrial customers and traditional building trades, right through to manufacturers.

A career in the making

The Feldman couple have worked extensively within the retail industry for most of their careers, with both Tim and his wife Sally using their extensive experience in the industry to run and manage their store successfully. Tim began his career in retail, working at McEwans on weekends while he still was studying at school.

“Since working at McEwans, I have worked at Bunnings in various roles for about seven years, and then at BOSCH Powertools where I started as a Key Account Manager. I then moved into marketing as a Senior Brand Manager for their Trade Professional Tools. Sally worked for Bunnings for over 20 years and she also began working in stores while she studied at university and then had various roles in human resources,” Tim said.

It was then that Tim and Sally made plans to move to Ballarat to open the store in the town and haven’t looked back since.

Store set to double

Tim and Sally will not only be flat out with the usual retail rush in the lead up to Christmas, but are also well under way in expanding their store, by another 1000 square metres, which is set to double the size of the original store.

“We are expanding our store size to take into account our range and we are looking forward to have some more space to display all of our products easily. We are working on it at the moment and it should be completed and up and running by the end of the year.”

“We have decided to expand the store more because we have run out of space so we believe we can’t display everything correctly. We want to display all the categories properly so customers can shop easily. The expansion is being done to improve ease of shopping more than anything. We may be expanding ahead of the curve a little bit, but it is much better to do it now rather than try to find a new building somewhere else,” Tim said.

Head office support

Tim said Total Tools head office support is very good and includes a strong marketing program and strong import program as well.

“The head office support is great because whenever you need help, you can just give them a call. In each department there is always someone on hand that can come out and help you and give you ideas that you need. I think that all the other store owners are really helpful as well and happy to lend a hand whenever you have a problem. This is especially good for any of the new guys who are coming on board.”

“Total Tools Ballarat was the first new franchise store in the group, so we were store number 25 when Total Tools changed from the model of what they were doing, to a pure franchise model. Since this time the group has grown to about 40 stores now, with many more coming on board very soon,” Tim said.