IHG’s show of strength within Australian hardware

The IHG (Independent Hardware Group) Expo, held in Adelaide from February 12-14, was one of unity and strength, as Mitre 10, Home Timber & Hardware, True Value and Thrifty-Link members came together once again under the IHG canopy.

The event proved to be one of the largest gatherings of independents and industry influencers with over 2030 attendees and a buoyant energy present like never before. This was particularly apparent during the business sessions and Awards of Excellence, when members and suppliers came together to hear insights on opportunities for growth under the IHG model and to celebrate the high calibre of retail and trade excellence in the group.

Staying true to its theme of ‘Best Store in Town’, the IHG Expo was also a platform to showcase the unique character and strength of family businesses to ‘win’ in their respective markets, including powerful video testimonials from Mitre 10 and HTH members who leveraged this point of difference.

There were ample opportunities for networking with nightly functions put on for guests, including a welcome function held at the picturesque Adelaide Oval and an ‘Independence Dinner’ seated event for 1400 guests on the banks of the River Torrens. Both social events were good reflections of the culture of engagement that is developing within the IHG family.

One underlying theme that was particularly noticeable throughout the Expo was the support from members for IHG’s ‘Family Village Tribe’ culture. While a pre-existing concept for the Mitre 10 network, it has recently rolled out to the broader IHG network and now sees 23 village territories across Australia, where members in a common region collaborate and share ideas. It is built on the notion that members can be stronger together, rather than everyone acting in isolation.

This united culture was not only apparent during social events, but highlighted at the beginning of the business session where the 23 Villages were formally introduced in spectacular fashion across main screens, and members showed their comradery by cheering when their village was introduced.

Mitre 10 National Store of the Year – Large Format: Glynde Mitre 10, Hectorville SA – Steve and John Capaldo.

Branding recommendation
One of the main topics for discussion at the business session was the announcement of IHG’s recommended go-forward brand strategy for the group.

General Manager of Marketing, Karen Fahey outlined the extensive research that was undertaken to help guide IHG to its decision, before announcing that it would continue with a dual brand approach, under Mitre 10 and Home Timber & Hardware.

“It was important that we speak to members, but it was crucial that we had a robust sample of the Australian marketplace. While the research told us that consumers would support a single brand strategy under Mitre 10, our decision to maintain both banners respects the unique circumstances and emotion that our members hold to their heritage,” Ms Fahey said.

In parallel with this decision, IHG announced a significant ramp up of its Sapphire transformation program with a target rollout of 40 stores per annum, up from 12 per year. Sapphire is a co-investment program between members and Metcash and will become a vehicle to move HTH stores to Mitre 10, in conjunction with driving a high performance store network that can meet the expectations of the Australian consumer, according to Ms Fahey.

The acceleration of Sapphire will ultimately result in a tiered-brand structure.

“Over the next two years we will start moving stores that want to come on the journey, using the Sapphire transformation store program as the vehicle. By taking this approach we are going to build a network of stores that display the ‘Best Store in Town’ attributes,” Ms Fahey announced during the business session.

HTH National Store of the Year – Over 1000m2: Gubbins Home Timber & Hardware, Moss Vale NSW – Nick Gubbins.

The brand decision followed extensive market study by research firm ‘Forethought’ where, between February and June, they spoke with over 360 members and more than 2000 DIY and trade consumers.

“Any decisions around brands that represent the vast majority of our volume had to be backed by independent research and given due consideration. Ultimately what we’re doing is laying the path for the next 50 years of independent hardware retailing. It’s not about the colour you paint your store, it’s about getting the building blocks right for what the Australian consumer expects from us,” Ms Fahey said.

Family heritage
IHG Chief Executive Officer, Mark Laidlaw reiterated that the Home brand would not disappear and spoke of the family name on a business being more powerful than ever before.

“Our recommendation provides a roadmap for all our members that sees them on their way to becoming the ‘Best Store in Town’. We believe the strategy is right and ultimately I am a firm believer in the consumer-driven strategy that says, they don’t care if it is Mitre 10 or Home really. It is about the name on the store. Like Provans, Womersley, Gubbins, it’s your heritage that is most important for our business,” he said.

Sapphire transformation
Established under the Mitre 10 brand, the Sapphire transformation program has already seen 30 stores co-invest with IHG in developments.

“We believe that independents need to reinvest in their businesses every five to seven years. Without confidence this can be challenging, which is why we at IHG will contribute to these investments, through about a 50 per cent contribution,” said Mr Laidlaw.
“Having completed 30 Sapphire projects we now have a solid ‘proof of concept’. We will now accelerate this program with a target to roll out 200 stores by 2022.

Mitre 10 National Trade Centre of the Year: Bayswater Timber Mitre 10, VIC – Vanderkolk Family.

“There is a clear opportunity for members to embrace the Sapphire transformation and together aspire to a more consistent presentation of offer whilst promoting their own individuality. Middle Australia. Entrepreneurism. There is a great opportunity for IHG to come together and become a force in Australian hardware.”

“This recommendation is not a decision we have taken lightly and we urge every member to engage with us on what it means for them. Everyone is on a journey to excellence. We’re here to support every member with the right building blocks and business tools,” he said.

Transparency, low cost and value add
During the business session, General Manager of Merchandise, Annette Welsh, provided an update on key integration and business activity, focusing on the three core principles that the IHG model is built on.

“Transparent. Low cost. Value add. All three of these aspects apply to every Best Store in Town. That’s what we are here to help you with,” Ms Welsh said.

“We absolutely believe that transparency is integral to building your trust in us and we know that the IHG model allows this. The second one is low cost: leveraging the value of the group in all aspects to offer you the best offer at the lowest price. The final one is value add: investing and using our JVs and company-owned stores to test and trial new initiatives, so we get them right and add value to your business.

“We have one intention – to build successful independents. We do this with low cost service and range solutions with a powerful rebates program, which this year will return the highest ever percentage to members, and through innovative value-add tools to future proof your business.

“No other group offers the same level of value for independent members,” finished Ms Welsh.

Some of the key IHG deliverables achieved this financial year included the successful rollout of new customer trading terms, increased warehouse ranges, new core range rebates negotiated for members and the significant e-commerce ramp up, with over 3,000 SKUs now online and the completion of a ‘Click and Collect’ program for HTH members by May 2018.

HTH National Trade Store of the Year: Provans Timber & Hardware, Clifton Hill VIC – Jarrod, Barry & Marnie (not present) Rosenberg.

Expo showcase
As the largest independent hardware trade show to be held this year, the two-day Expo saw 204 exhibitors from over 240 companies offer more than 4,000 enticing deals. As AHJ went to print, the Expo orders placed had reached almost $18 million, so it was no surprise that the trade show was such a hive of activity, with a genuine buzz from members and suppliers alike.

Product innovation and knowledge was a focus for members as they roamed the aisles, and they were not left disappointed with suppliers’ support for independents clearly demonstrated in the deals offered and the interaction observed over the course of the Expo period.

Exhibitor stands were also particularly impressive this year, with standards significantly lifted through size, vibrancy, creativity and staff numbers, making for one of the most significantly productive trade shows IHG has achieved thus far. Bostik, Gardena and Gainsborough were recognised for their innovative efforts, each winning a prestigious Exhibitor of the Year award for Large, Medium and Small format booths respectively.

Awards of Excellence
Held on the final night and hosted by popular ambassador, Scott Cam, and Channel Nine presenter, Catriona Rowntree, the evening kicked off with a medley of songs from Australian singer, Kate Ceberano, serenading guests by strolling amongst the tables and singing old favourites.

Award presentations for stores, suppliers and individuals were the perfect end to the three-day event, with passion, emotion and family pride dominating the acceptance speeches of all recipients.

Store awards
2017 MITRE 10 STORE OF THE YEAR – LARGE FORMAT — Glynde Mitre 10, Hectorville SA (Owners – John & Steve Capaldo)
Mr Capaldo said he was totally surprised by winning the award and said, “I guess one thing we do differently is having an internal merchandiser who has transformed the store and really tidied it up, along with Operations Manager, Albert, Mary from bathrooms who I’d also like to thank, as well as the state office. Seeing our four brands up there, who would have thought? But now it is one force fighting together which is just fantastic,” he said.

Large Stand of the Year winners – Bostik.

2017 HOME TIMBER & HARDWARE STORE OF THE YEAR – OVER 1,000m2 — Gubbins Home Timber & Hardware, Moss Vale NSW (Owner – Nick Gubbins)
Mr Gubbins built his store ‘from the ground up’ four years ago and said HTH and Mitre 10 have been there from day one and 100 per cent behind him. “It is all about the people in our business. They took photos giving us the big thumbs up, showing their support. Independence is the way to go. Don’t be scared of the big guys. Let them be scared
of us.”

2017 TRADE CENTRE OF THE YEAR – MITRE 10 — Bayswater Timber Mitre 10, VIC (Owners – Vanderkolk Family)
Rob Vanderkolk said, “Mitre 10 put a lot into us and we are chuffed. We are no different to any other store out there. We put our heart and soul in to be the ‘Best Store in Town’, for our future and our children’s future. I think Home Hardware and Mitre 10 are heading in the right direction together. Let’s go!”

2017 TRADE STORE OF THE YEAR – HOME TIMBER & HARDWARE — Provan’s Timber & Hardware, Clifton Hill VIC (Owners – Barry, Jarrod & Marnie Rosenberg)
Barry Rosenberg thanked all his staff and his suppliers and commended IHG for “bringing everyone together to make this team as a group a lot stronger”.

2017 GARDEN CENTRE OF THE YEAR — Barrow & Bench Mitre 10, Malvern SA (Owners – Paul & Amanda Stewart)
On receiving the award Mr Stewart said, “For us our garden centre is about creating an environment where people want to stay. We want to acknowledge all the staff, and Amanda, who have made the Garden Centre the beautiful place that it is. The garden for us is such a huge part of our business.”

2017 MITRE 10 STORE OF THE YEAR – MEDIUM FORMAT — Pinks Mitre 10, Clare SA (Owners – Greg and Melanie Pink)
Mr Pink said he was extremely proud of the award. “My team and staff are doing an amazing job as there is a lot of pressure running a five paint brush store. Mel and I work well as a team. We have a great state team as well, and a lot of help from our suppliers.”

2017 HOME TIMBER & HARDWARE STORE OF THE YEAR – UNDER 1,000m2 — Raff Home Timber & Hardware, Pittsworth QLD (Owners – Rob & Annabelle Raff)
Mr Raff said the store was from a, “small country town, with great suppliers and a beautiful wife. We are heading in an amazing direction and looking forward to the next few years. We are very proud so thank you to our staff and team.”

2017 MITRE 10 STORE OF THE YEAR – SMALL FORMAT — Sunlite Mitre 10, Paddington NSW (Owner – Steven Czeiger)
Mr Czeiger said it was a real honour to be accepting the award for the second year in a row. “The only reason why we are standing up here tonight is because of the incredible people within the Sunlite family. My team stepped up and rose to the occasion when I couldn’t lead the company in a time of need, but everyone knew our company vision and what needed to be achieved,” he said.

2017 THRIFTY-LINK STORE OF THE YEAR — Port Broughton Hardware, SA (Owners – Mark & Kaye Bellman)
Mr Bellman thanked his staff and his wife Kaye, who he acknowledged was the backbone of the business, as well as his customers.
2017 TRUE VALUE STORE OF THE YEAR — Manjimup Motors True Value Hardware, WA (Owners – Jeff & Maree Hurley)
Mr Hurley thanked his wife, Maree, for all of her work behind the scenes and his staff, who without, he would not be accepting the award.

2017 VILLAGE OF THE YEAR — Northern Spirit, QLD

Individual awards
PAUL MURPHY ‘MIGHTY HELPFUL’ SERVICE AWARD —
Samantha Standley, Globe Home Timber & Hardware, Broken Hill NSW
Ms Standley said, “My customers mean the world to me. All of them mean a lot and they all love to come into our store and be served by our whole team.”

BLUE BLOOD AWARD — Ian Bauer, IHG Business Development Manager QLD,
Mr Bauer was particularly recognised for his outstanding efforts in supporting his stores during a cyclone. Mr Bauer said, “When the going gets tough in the north, and we do have some tough times, the tough get going. It’s not just about me but my members who I am extremely proud of. The state and national team that support me, as well as my family.”

CEO RECOGNITION AWARD — Mike Fergus, Petries Mitre 10, NSW
On winning the award Mr Fergus said, “What you see with Mark Laidlaw and his team is what you get. The team have honesty and clarity and purpose. Purchasing HTH is also just such a positive for our industry because it gives us the opportunity to work together and take our industry forward.”

HALL OF FAME — David Woodman & Kerry Woodman, QLD
An award that recognises leaders within the network, who have helped to shape the hardware and retail market, and who have given their time, their expertise and counsel to the broader IHG business.

This year, brothers David and Kerry Woodman were recognised for their significant contribution to the industry over many decades. David’s son, Brendan, and Kerry’s daughter, Eleanor, offered an insight into the family business before the brother took to the stage to accept their award. David Woodman said he learned mostly from his dad and his brother to achieve what they have over the years, including the development of the mega store, with his son Brendan leading the team to grow and thrive.

Kerry Woodman said he would like to recognise the partnership he had with Mitre 10 since 1986, and said it has been a wonderful association with the family.

“The partnership between Mitre 10 and HTH is something that had to happen and it is great to see everyone working together to fight the big box,” he said.

Supplier awards
2017 NATIONAL SUPPLIER OF THE YEAR —
Makita Australia
2017 LOGISTICS SUPPLIER OF THE YEAR — CTI Logistics
2017 ‘LIVING’ SUPPLIER OF THE YEAR — Sherwin-Williams
2017 ‘FIX’ SUPPLIER OF THE YEAR — Makita Australia
2017 ‘BUILD’ SUPPLIER OF THE YEAR — Cement Australia
2017 ‘TIMBER’ SUPPLIER OF THE YEAR — Hume Doors