A Team evolves through changing market

by | May 2, 2024

Serving both the independent and big box markets, A Team Merchandising is excited for the year ahead as it continues to grow and evolve to meet local market demands.

In A Team’s early years, clients were strongly focused on both the independents as well as the big box. Although this focus was followed by an almost single-minded attention on Bunnings, the pendulum is now swinging back again.

“The meteoric growth of Bunnings once saw our clients strongly focused on meeting their needs. This included the extra resources that were required to support new store rollouts. However, as the Bunnings geographic footprint reaches maturity, we once again see our clients starting to ask for support with independents and we are responding to the call,” A Team General Manager Matt Wild recently told AHJ.

Co-serving both Bunnings and independents has its benefits because when A Team needs to deal with the same client across both retail sectors, its staff have the benefit of building and sharing their product knowledge from the industry as a whole. 

“We can also deliver logistical efficiencies by mapping our calls to cover geographic territories concurrently,” Mr Wild said.

When reflecting on the past 12 months, A Team sees Bunnings as now transitioning to a more mature business model. Mr Wild says that even though historically Bunnings has focused on putting up new stores and filling them to the brim, this focus has now shifted to a more sophisticated approach of fine-tuning profits from existing stores. 

“This is evident when you see the improved inventory management systems within Bunnings that aim to have the most suitable stock levels to meet sales without overstocking. We play a part in this process by monitoring our clients’ stock levels to identify anomalies between physical stock on hand and stock levels shown in the system,” Mr Wild said.

When looking at the performance of the hardware industry as whole, although A Team believes the hardware industry is down from the heights of recent years, the feedback from clients is that they have been somewhat immune from this downturn to date. 

“We believe this is because the majority of our clients play in the DIY/general hardware space rather than construction-specific categories,” he said.

When it comes to seeking new clients, A Team believes client decision-making is very much driven by the corporate structure of a business. 

“Some larger organisations, particularly those on a global scale, have a policy of reviewing service providers based on an arbitrary schedule. Other organisations work on an ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ approach. We respect both philosophies and work with our clients and prospective clients to best meet their needs.”

“This is why we are open to clients conducting trials because we understand it is a big step to make the switch. One method is to appoint us as a service provider in one state where our performance can be monitored. However, we tend to find once a client decides they want to make a change they go for a clean break and make the switch nationally. We also have simple yet comprehensive onboarding processes that ensure a seamless transition for our clients,” Mr Wild said.

As a true national service provider, A Team believes there are no stand-out states to date and says its service levels simply reflect the proportional distribution of stores across the country.

“Looking to the New Zealand market, A Team has an affiliate company in New Zealand that enables us to provide reciprocal services for clients across the Tasman as well,” he said.

While it seems that experience and working on a national scale do have its benefits, merchandising does not come without its issues. Mr Wild pointed out that working as a third-party provider always has the potential for disconnection, “between our client (the supplier) and their customer (the retailer) in terms of the flow of information and executing tasks.”

A Team’s John Hughes believes it is important to continually liaise with clients so all tasks are clearly defined.

“Often when we speak with prospective clients they say, ‘we do not know whether our provider is doing a good job or not, we never really hear from them’. We work very hard to continually liaise with our clients to clearly define tasks. We then thoroughly document the tasks and load them into our ‘A Team Live’ app.”

“All of our team then log into the app and follow the instructions in the task. The app requires our team to document the completion or non-completion of tasks which are then available as reports to our clients,” Mr Wild said.

It is advanced tools such as these that allow A Team to remain well-positioned in keeping its clients in the loop. These tools also ensure that the management team is always available to discuss issues and resolve them early to ensure a successful year ahead.