Swadling’s big Sydney name grows strong

Store name: (A.W. Swadlings) Swadling’s Timber and Hardware

Store owner: Colin & Gianna Swadling, Danny Gattone

Buying group: NATBUILD

Swadling’s Timber and Hardware has grown its business in an area populated with older style weatherboard homes and is well known for its heavy alterations and additions. The store services building work within the city as well.

Store's exteriorThe popular business has now traded as a hardware store for over 86 years, with Colin Swadling, his wife Gianna and Gianna’s brother Danny Gattone running the store for the last 26 years. The store has an incredibly strong family history with Colin’s great-aunty being the last owner of the store, before the current trio took over. Family member Mark Swadling is the store’s General Manager, Michael Swadling runs the trade counter, while Nicola Swadling is the store’s marketing planner.

With a customer base of 85 per cent trade, 10 per cent retail and five per cent commercial, the store’s strength remains primarily in timber, with the business building a good reputation on its building supplies, according to Danny.

“We are well known for our timber supplies with milling, which is a dying trade in Sydney. The milling is used for profile matching and special orders, so we do specialise in a lot of bench tops and joinery as well. We have also found that when you have a good timber offer, the hardware becomes a very good add on to create much more of a one stop shop for the builders,” Danny said.

“What we have found over the years is that timber is the lead in product for our customers and then hardware. So customers tend to buy hardware after coming in to buy the timber. Our biggest selling area is timber and we also specialise in skirtings and architraves. We also have a very strong fastening section and a heavy building supplies department, which goes hand in hand with the timber,” he said.

Local competition in the area is close with a Bunnings store just five kilometres away and plenty of independents in the area as well.

“In the city metropolitan there’s plenty of competition but in our immediate area we’ve got Crescent Timber which is only one kilometre away and is one of the group’s stores – however they have a different clientele to us, so I think we are a little bit insulated because of the location,” Danny said.

The Rozelle store’s business has grown significantly in recent years, particularly after a fire destroyed one of the group’s stores in Roseberry, but then management decided to relocate to Rozelle and they haven’t looked back since.

“We had a store in Roseberry which had a fire in 2008 – hence we relocated this business to the existing Rozelle store. Since bringing that business over from 2008, the Rozelle business has grown 400 per cent over six years. This is because we brought a good customer base with us plus, we increased the stock range, increased the hardware size, put in more and more products and of course invested a bit more expertise in the business,” Danny said.

The store is now 1800 square metres undercover and also features an extensive outside drive in yard with timber racking, which is probably another 1200 square metres externally.Swadling's truck to use“We don’t get too fancy with customer loyalty programs but one of our strengths is that we operate on a same day or next day delivery service, so eighty per cent of our deliveries are completed onthe same day. We find our competitors just can’t perform like that because you need the stock, the infrastructure, the trucks and the resources to be able to do this,” Danny said.“With a lot of the building work in the area being alterations and additions, builders can’t plan too far ahead with their materials so we do pick up a lot of business because we are so reliable with our deliveries. We run eight trucks and we have five full time drivers, so we back this up with the service to perform. We also do trade breakfasts and we have a big yearly trade night,” he said.There is a sense of longevity with the staff who are employed at the store, according to Danny, with many being with the store for over 15 years.“We do have very loyal staff and we pride ourselves on this. They are also valuable assets to the business with many winning awards including trainee, John Graham, recently winning best apprentice award in wood machining this year with TABMA (Timber and Building Material Association). We have also won several traditional building awards over the years for the Rozelle store,” Danny said.Although the Rozelle store has traded in the family for 86 years, the Swadling Group was established in 1986 when Colin Swadling managed a Hudsons store, in Alexandria, Sydney and had the opportunity to execute a management buyout, because the store was closing.

“Colin is in accounting, so he asked myself to join him. I was in the building game at the time, so I joined him in 1986 to take over the Alexandria store along with my sister Gianna who was in the banking industry, and who is married to Colin,” Danny said.Timber exterior 1

“Over the years we purchased several stores, with our next acquisition being Crescent Timber Annandale. With this acquisition my brother Ron Gattone joined and he also had a building background.The next acquisition was Blacktown building supplies, and then along with this we had two ex-employees that joined in partnerships with this branch – Gary Attard and Phil Screpis. Then we purchased Canterbury Timber and we are all shareholders of this one,” Danny said.

Blacktown and Canterbury are Mitre 10 stores, with the remaining stores trading and flourishing under the Swadling’s independent banner, which continues to grow as an iconic name in the Sydney Timber and Hardware industry.