Dippers HTH awarded ‘Store of the Year’ after just two years in the business

Store name: Dipper’s Home Timber and Hardware

Store owners: Rebecca and Anthony Diprose

Buying Group: Home Timber and Hardware Group

Dippers Home Timber and Hardware, based in Moree NSW, won Home Timber and Hardware National Store of the Year (over 1000 square metres), after its owners took over the business just two years ago.

Anthony & Rebecca Diprose

Anthony and Rebecca Diprose

As first time winners, owners Rebecca and Anthony Diprose, said the award was totally unexpected and they felt very honoured to have received it.

Anthony Diprose was very humble when discussing the achievement saying although he was thrilled to have received the national award, he also felt undeserving because he had only been in the business for such a short time.

“I don’t feel we are any different from other stores and there are actually probably a lot of stores who do it a whole lot better than we do. However, in our store, customer service is a big focus of our business. Being located 700 kilometres north west of Sydney and 500 kilometres south west of Brisbane, customers expect a lot from our store, as they are not able to drive 20 kilometres down the road to the next hardware store to purchase something,” Mr Diprose said.

“Country people are very supportive of local businesses, providing the business is competitive and also provides good service.  It is my belief the sense of community is far greater in country towns than in regional centres and cities. It is for this reason we ensure we are also very involved in the community through sporting groups and charitable organisations,” he said.

The HTH Group follows a set criteria, when judging stores for the award, which includes: growth in support of the HTH group, participation in marketing campaigns, adoption of HTH planograms, internal and external identification, store presentation, sales growth and attendance at HTH group functions.

Award winners - Dippers Home Timber & Hardware - National 3

Col Pring and Rebecca and Anthony Diprose receive HTH Group’s National Store of the Year (over 1000 square metres) award.

“We have experienced terrific growth in the business in the short amount of time that we have had the store. We had a five year plan when we bought the business and reached that sales level after just two and a half years. This was fantastic but also presented quite significant challenges which varied from stocking levels, cash-flow, staffing and debtor control.”

“We changed the business to ensure it was extremely customer focussed and we increased the range available to our customers both in retail and trade hardware. A major expansion of our garden centre has also helped to drive sales, because country people are big on gardens as they have no restriction on space,” Mr Diprose said.

The store also ensured that it adopted the majority of the marketing campaigns provided by the HTH Group, which was not adopted by previous owners.

Staff member, Mary Hawker shows off Dipper's popular garden department

Staff member, Mary Hawker shows off Dipper’s popular garden department

Word of mouth and social media have both been vital in the store’s growth and continues to ensure customers know what products are on offer and that pricing is competitive.

A couple of rival businesses also exited the market since we took over the store, which has also helped boost sales growth, according to Mr Diprose.

“It is my opinion that sales and customer service are pretty simple. Basically treat your customers as you would want to be treated yourself and you are three quarters of the way there. Throw in a bit of product knowledge and competitive pricing and you nearly have it sewn up.  Relationships are also important in sales as well. You need to earn your customer’s trust and also understand their wants and needs. It is not always about price. The philosophy on treating a customer as you want to be treated yourself is one that we try and get our staff to live, eat and breathe.”

“We are very fortunate to have a great team here and a terrific second in charge in Colin Pring, who treats the business as if it is his own. I am a big believer in empowering your people. Let them become part of your business and if they are the right people your business will grow as they will see it as their own success,” Mr Diprose said.

Amazingly, until they purchased the store, Rebecca and Anthony had no exposure to hardware, so initially it was a very rapid learning curve for the couple. Mr Diprose’s professional background is in property valuation, agricultural retail and livestock sales, which spans over 25 years.

“My wife Rebecca and I purchased the store in November 2012, which was previously known as Digby’s Town and Rural and they were also a member of the HTH group. We chose to change the name of the store and with the assistance of the HTH Group did a complete rebranding of the exterior of the premises, to help identify new ownership and allow us to put our own stamp on the business,” he said.

“We lived in the community for 10 years and thought it was a good time to do something for ourselves – so had a crack. We have three children under five years, so unfortunately they are willing but limited in their ability to work in the store! We have no family support in the region, with both our parents being located a long way away so Bec (wife) works one day a week in the business on our debtor book and marketing programs.”

“Our trade business has grown considerably as has the DIY. Our customer mix used to be 60 percent retail hardware and 40 trade, made up of both trade and DIY, and it has probably reversed now. Our retail customers are still very important to us though as they tend to be the icing on the cake,” Mr Diprose said.

The trade department is well supported, due to being the only trade outlet in town, however trade stores in neighbouring towns offer delivery services during week. The store’s garden centre and associated products also remain well supported as Dippers Home Timber and Hardware remains one of the largest purchasers of outdoor furniture from HTH group and a recent change in layout has also assisted with garden and outdoor sales.

“Paint is also one of largest departments and we receive very good support from the community on this one as well as being a trade outlet for Valspar, which services approximately 80 per cent of the professional painters in town,” Mr Diprose said.

With 3000 square metres of trading area under roof and 1200 square metres of land, Mr Diprose said the store’s ability to grow on the land is a great attribute as it allows for plenty of customer parking and quite good exposure.

“Externally the store was completely rebranded when we took over, which made a huge difference. Internally we have expanded and remodelled the garden centre which has worked well for both ourselves and our customers. We have also just completed a full relay of our retail hardware component of the store, implementing many of the HTH group planograms, which has improved the look of the store immensely and hopefully will make the shopping experience for our customers more rewarding,” Mr Diprose said.

The town of Moree remains solely reliant on agriculture so if the farmers, both dryland and irrigated, experience good times the town does well. However, the region is currently experiencing low rainfall and there is very little irrigation water, so the town is experiencing difficult retail conditions at present, Mr Diprose said.

“A lot of our local building work tends to be renovations and there are not a lot of new builds as our regional population has declined approximately 25 per cent in the last 10 years. We do try to change our retail displays to be current with the seasons. Outdoor furniture and BBQ’s also work well for us as our climate is quite a warm one, hence they are a large component of our retail offering and display area.  Garden products work well in late winter and early spring then it becomes too hot in summer for gardening,” he said.

The store has begun to run more functions for its customers, including a successful ladies night last year with attendees expected to double this year. A tradies information evening is also planned this year.

In the long term Mr Diprose said he would like to develop the store with major structural changes, more storage and incorporate a larger garden centre, as well as a homemaker’s centre.

“Part of the structural change would incorporate increased undercover storage for trade products allowing us to carry a greater range.  Ultimately this will all be determined upon our continued growth and development however in the short term we need rain and plenty of it to stimulate spending within the community,” Mr Diprose said.

In the meantime, Mr Diprose said he felt very lucky to be located within such a great community and looked forward to working closely with locals in years to come.