IHG makes successful switch to Virtual Expo

The Independent Hardware Group’s (IHG) Virtual Expo made its debut on February 22, complete with all of its trademark events including business sessions and a National Awards of Excellence ceremony which ran alongside exhibition halls, expo deals, webinars and booth visit incentives housed within an interactive online platform.

With over 2700 delegates registered, the Virtual Expo opened up more opportunities for members than ever before by giving all store staff the chance to experience the event. Over 480 hardware stores and 190 exhibitors registered for the event which broke all attendance records.

This year’s business sessions included insights from IHG Chief Executive Officer, Annette Welsh who not only reflected on the last 12 months but also shared opportunities for members to capitalise on changes to consumer behaviour in a post COVID environment in 2021 and beyond. Ms Welsh was followed by a number of speakers, including demographer Bernard Salt, and an introduction from Total Tools Chief Executive Officer, Paul Dumbrell.

The Expo (trade show) itself consisted of 10 halls of 189 virtual booths, including a new Innovation Hall showcasing the latest shopper-trends and industry services, as well as a virtual showcase of volume buys for members on ‘Pallet Alley’. Members were also able to view and add to their ‘virtual showbag’ hundreds of supplier videos and documents, as well as watch ‘Learning Labs’ and supplier webinars via the auditorium. 

As everyone navigated the technology, the IHG team reported that on the whole, it was a positive experience as members and suppliers “discovered a new way of doing Expo”. 

The Expo’s networking lounge chat room remained busy with online chatter throughout the five-day event, and was utilised as a ‘go-to’ area for suppliers to send group messages to members on where to find their stands and what products and offers were available. Any technical and ordering issues were troubleshooted by the awaiting IHG team.

A fun and interactive competition was also held throughout the event, with participants invited to find hidden mini versions of Home Timber & Hardware canine mascots, Sandy and Rusty, and Mitre 10 brand ambassador, Scott Cam, similar to the game of ‘Where’s Wally’. A point system was also implemented incentivising delegates to engage with the platform, with points gained for booth visits, watching webinars and much more, putting members in the draw to win prizes.

IHG business sessions

IHG CEO Annette Welsh said, “2020 has given us a leg up and we should not let this go”.

During IHG’s business sessions Ms Welsh presented to members in a proud and upbeat tone, while she enlightened delegates on how the collective IHG network could continue to grow through focus and investment.

“2020 has given us a leg up and we should not let it go,” Ms Welsh said.

“While 2020 was a challenging, strange and difficult year, the hardware industry, and particularly the DIY market, experienced record-breaking growth. As a group we have built the most solid foundations on which to grow, and investment in the future is assured,” she said.

Ms Welsh also discussed the positives that had come out of the pandemic, including the efforts of members to lobby governments and ensure hardware was considered an essential service during this time. She also expressed how proud she was at the way members took on the intense uplift in demand by, “adapting to the volume coming into ‘click & collect’ and turning it into ‘click & deliver’, ‘dial & collect’, ‘dial & deliver’, curb side pick-up and contactless service.”

“Our suppliers also faced the same challenges. In particular those who came quickly when COVID restrictions impacted our DC in Melbourne. Our family-village-tribe culture has been taken to a new level in the last twelve months for the benefit of everyone.”

“Every aspect of our individual businesses was stretched to the full, but delivered results that in so many towns across the nation have substantially shifted market share towards one of our brands. We have put ourselves in tremendous position to serve any customer, any time,” Ms Welsh said.

A new confidence has emerged from 2020, according to Ms Welsh, who said IHG stands as an exceptionally strong player in DIY, alongside leading the market in trade. 

“Our digital platforms were critical in ensuring we could service consumers during lockdown and showed us where the cracks were. But online sales have now achieved levels that were previously predicted in 2025.”

In closing, Ms Welsh touched on Metcash’s purchase of TTH (Total Tools Holdings).

“Championing successful independents is always at the core of our business and the opportunity to ensure Total Tools independents could be protected and continue to grow is clearly aligned with our mission, as well as our strategy of becoming the number one trade player in the hardware sector,” she said.

Growth initiatives for IHG

IHG’s General Manager of Merchandise Geoff Harris spoke on the progress IHG has made in DIY and trade markets through its Sapphire upgrade program.

Providing an update on IHG’s growth plans, General Manager of Merchandise Geoff Harris spoke on the progress made in DIY and trade markets through IHG’s Sapphire program, as well as the group’s whole of house strategy, digital and category management.

Outlining the future for the group’s store transformation program, Mr Harris declared that the program continues to be, “the corner stone to delivering our consumer driven strategy”.

“In December last year we reached our 100th Sapphire store. From the beginnings of an idea in 2014 we have come a long way. We now have 100 stores in three different formats including trade only, DIY and a DIY/trade mix. Store investment varies from $30k to $250K or more, each one an individual solution and unique achievement. Together, independents and IHG have reinvested over $42 million into hardware independents across the country,” he said.

“IHG’s Sapphire program delivers for everyone, including consumers, members, suppliers and IHG. It has proven itself year in and year out since 2015.”

For three years now, we have had a plan to invest in 200 stores by 2022. Not only are we on track to meet this, I am thrilled to announce that with Metcash support, IHG can now expand to 300 stores by 2025. This is both a massive opportunity that we cannot wait to deliver on your behalf,” Mr Harris said

Digital remains another area of significant opportunity for IHG, across both trade and DIY, with its roadmap focused around three building blocks: “making it easy for the customer to shop with members, personalising, and tailoring its message to the consumer and inspiring consumers to try new projects and new products.”

“We may not match our competitor on their investment in the digital space but we have passionate people in store that can convert more loyalty consumers to our network and provide exceptional service,” he said.

Emerging categories were also touched on by Mr Harris, often referred to as “destinations” for consumers in store and categories where price does not always come first. He said kitchen, laundry, bathroom, garden, paint and connected homes were all categories where consumers continue to seek inspiration.

“Consumers are looking to be inspired in-store and online, and absolutely value service, education and assistance when shopping these categories. In the connected home space alone, we have seen a sales uplift of 145 per cent YTD. And whilst the DIY market is important for us, we also recognise that IHG is uniquely placed to work with our builders to get connected homes into the house build,” he said.

IHG has identified the kitchen sector as another category for growth across its network. 

“Kitchens, bathrooms and laundries remain prime customer destination categories and lead to sales growth in complementary categories such as appliances and accessories. Our network is primed to take advantage of the rapid sales growth expected in this category.”

“Our ‘principle kitchen’ offer, provided through Hafele, is second to none. Hafele provide direct member support with dedicated retail customer service and training programs. Importantly, members looking to enter the kitchen and appliance category who do not have the space for full in store displays can take advantage of our display modules to suit every store. It really is a great way to display your trade builder packs and retail appliance range,” Mr Harris said.

Two brand strategy 

IHG’s General Manager of Marketing, Karen Fahey, also presented the next phase of IHG’s two brand strategy, designed specifically to position Mitre 10 as a clear alternative to Bunnings.

IHG’s General Manager of Marketing, Karen Fahey, also presented members with the next phase of IHG’s two brand strategy, designed specifically to position Mitre 10 as a clear alternative to Bunnings.

“In May, the strategy will go live. It is crucial everyone feels they have a place in the new structure with True Value and Thrifty-Link stores encouraged to move to either Mitre 10 or Home Timber & Hardware by 2024, with IHG investing in the store conversion,” Ms Fahey said.

“The time is right to move on our dual brand strategy in earnest. IHG is investing in our independents and supporting everyone, no matter which of the two brands you choose, to be part of a strong, recognisable group to help your value and range perception,” she said.

The first conversion has already taken place with the former Port Broughton Thrifty-Link in South Australia rebranding to Home Hardware in February. After 16 years as a Thrifty-Link store, owner Mark and Kaye Bellman said the conversion allowed them to join a larger group, give them access to stronger marketing, e-commerce and loyalty, as well as give their community a refreshed store.

Ms Fahey said that by committing to the two-brand strategy, “we wish to limit change and disruption, strengthen our two hardware brands and leave no member behind.”

Total Tools update

Total Tools Chief Executive Officer, Paul Dumbrell explained why the acquisition by Metcash was so complementary to both businesses.

In a session welcomed by the IHG members and suppliers, Total Tools Chief Executive Officer, Paul Dumbrell provided insights into the Total Tools organization and why the acquisition was so complementary to both businesses, after Metcash acquired Total Tools last year.  

“It was obvious the IHG strategy to become the number one trade player in the hardware sector was clearly aligned to our strategy to be number one in the professional tool channel,” Mr Dumbrell said.

Like much of the IHG network, COVID has turbo charged Total Tools’ growth now to 88 stores, according to Mr Dumbrell who also announced the launch of its first franchise Total Tools store operated by one of the IHG members.

“Our network is on average 1500 square metres and our stores have access to over 100,000 SKUs across our network. Our focus is tradies, and tradies demand the best range and brand,” he said.

Australia’s rebuild

Demographer and renowned business speaker, Bernard Salt, also returned to the IHG Expo to discuss Australia’s “big rebuild” after COVID.

While Mr Salt agrees the pandemic has reshaped hardware retailing in Australia and changed it for the better, “what we are involved with in 2021 is not just the recovery of Australia but the rebuilding of Australia and the creating of better housing.”

Mr Salt took delegates back in time and explained how in years past, when Australians had endured hard times, often the population would come out the other side with much optimism. One example he presented was the entrepreneurial energy of Australians after both World Wars, which also led to the founding of Woolworths in 1924.

Mr Salt predicts that the same will happen post-COVID, with a better version of Australia expected, while not downshifting what has occurred within the economy during this time.

Throughout 2020 the average monthly spend on household goods jumped from $4.5 billion to $5.5 billion per month or a 30 per cent increase, due to COVID lockdowns, according to Mr Salt.

“If you are in home hardware you are tracking 30 plus per cent up on what you did this time last year and this is not easing up. Too much business is always a great problem to have.”

Working from home is also here to stay which will continue investment into the home, while also changing the structure of the home. 

“Like after a drought, a lot of us have water tanks on the property for 20 years and more and the same will happen with working from home significantly shaping Australian homes now and beyond 2021,” he said.

IHG’s National Awards of Excellence

IHG’s annual National Awards of Excellence also played a feature role at the Expo, with members and suppliers gathering in groups to hear the announcement of the national award winners on the opening evening.

The ceremony was broadcast online in an entertaining and creative format, with hosts Greg McKean and Jacki Kersting emceeing the event and many IHG team members called upon to present awards. 

“Unique times calls for a unique approach, and tonight’s National Awards of Excellence is an awards night like no other. A night where we celebrate the stories, the triumphs, the successes of our independent members and suppliers. 2020 tested your teams and tested yourselves. You are all to be applauded for the resilience in how you served your customers and communities day in, day out.  You are all winners in our eyes,” said Ms Kersting as she and Mr McKean opened the proceedings. 

Some award recipients were pre-recorded receiving their awards in surprise presentations. There were many emotional faces and some tears recorded as the unexpecting winners accepted their awards in-store.

Fourteen awards were announced including eight store awards, three supplier awards and three individual awards. 

IHG’s National Awards of Excellence

2020 Mitre 10 Store of the Year – Medium Format: Pontings Mitre 10, Warrnambool VIC

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2020 Supplier of the Year – Build: Hume Doors & Timber

2020 Supplier of the Year – Fix & Fit Out: Yardforce (Sumec)

2020 Supplier of the Year – Finish & Exterior: Dulux Australia

2020 Paul Murphy ‘Mighty Helpful’ Service Award: Vanessa Rossen from Dongara Mitre 10 in WA

2020 Village of the Year: Melbourne Traders & VIC Pioneers

2020 National Garden Centre of the Year: McLaren Vale Mitre 10, Mark & Fiona Loveday and Brian Lawrence, SA

2020 Store of the Year – Convenience Format: Manjimup Motors True Value, Jeff & Maree Hurley, WA

2020 Mitre 10 Store of the Year- Small Format: Sunlite Mitre 10 York St, Steven Czeiger, NSW

2020 Home Timber & Hardware Store of the Year: Home Timber & Hardware Biloela, Tim Kessler & Kent Hutton, QLD

2020 Mitre 10 Store of the Year – Medium Format: Pontings Mitre 10, John Ponting & Pam Madner, Warrnambool VIC

2020 Trade Centre of the Year: Hume & Iser Mitre 10, Iser Family, Bendigo VIC

2020 Mitre 10 Store of the Year – Large Format: TM&H Mitre 10, Jeff & Lynne Hitchins, James Hitchins and Laura Town, Moe VIC

2020 Blue Blood Award: Paul Nagl, IT Manager

2020 Hall of Fame: Gary Woodruff

Hall of Fame

IHG’s Hall of Fame also recognises the contribution and legacy of individuals and/or families within the industry. IHG’s Hall of Fame recipients are those who demonstrate the true spirit of the group’s brands over generations, who give their time, expertise and counsel to the group and whose influence has helped shape the current and future state of the hardware market. 

“All previous recipients have been true believers and battlers for independents and we are extremely proud to have each of them in the network,” according to Ms Welsh.

IHG’s 2020 Hall of Fame recipient saw the induction of Gary Woodruff, of Benalla Mitre 10, who was given his Hall of Fame recognition by Ms Welsh during a surprise presentation in-store. 

During the presentation, Ms Welsh said that Mr Woodruff has been at the forefront of Mitre 10 for over 15 years, shaping the business and the trading model that exists today. 

“He has always generously given his time and his expertise to guide Mitre 10 and everyone that works across it, towards the successful business that it is today,” she said.

Gary Woodruff was introduced to hardware through his father John, and has had 16 years running Woody’s hardware shops with his Dad. At their peak, they owned five Mitre 10 stores in Victoria. 

2020 Hall of Fame inductee, Gary Woodruff, alongside wife, Jan Woodruff. Annette Welsh, IHG CEO, travelled to Benalla to surprise Gary with the recognition.

“Gary tended to find broken stores in need of attention and invested in them to get performance back up again and build the best store in town.  He took his broad experience and commenced assisting the group, initially working on the members marketing sub-committee for Mitre 10’s south east division and then joining the Mitre 10 board.” Ms Welsh said. 

“In the 2000’s, Mitre 10 was on its knees. During 2008 and 2009 discussions were held with prospective equity partners in a bid to save Mitre 10 and get much needed capital. Gary, as deputy Chairperson, working alongside Lance Collins and Phil Petrie – rallied the members to prepare them for change and the eventual purchase of Mitre 10 by Metcash.” 

“Mitre 10 was in need of a helping hand and so followed the 50.1 per cent Metcash investment. At the first board meeting of M10 and Metcash, Andrew Reitzer advised the board that the current Chief Executive Officer, Mark Burrows, would not be the future Chief Executive Officer, but he had a guy and asked Gary, Lance and Phil to interview him. So, at a hotel in Melbourne Mark Laidlaw was duly interviewed and the rest is history.”

It was Gary who guided Mark, alongside Carl and Robin, in understanding the network, the individuals and in particular sharing his knowledge of trade. Gary used his relationships to facilitate discussions with key store owners to rebuild trust and belief in the future of the group,” Ms Welsh said.

In closing, Ms Welsh personally thanked Gary and his wife Jan.

“Gary has fought hard for things he believed in, and always led from the front. Congratulations to you Gary,” she said.

IHG unites ‘through tough times’

IHG’s 2020 Expo, held at the Gold Coast Exhibition and Convention Centre from February 10-12, did not disappoint, with informative business sessions and workshops delivering many initiatives for future business growth, particularly in the trade, digital and smart home space. A two-day trade show followed the sessions with over 200 exhibitors boasting exceptional sales. IHG’s ‘Awards of Excellence’ concluded the event, with popstar Anthony Callea ensuring members, suppliers and the IHG team finished their Expo experience on a high.

IHG’s 2020 Expo theme of ‘Working together through tough times’ was dominant throughout the event, particularly during the business sessions held on the opening day of the conference, with over 1550 attendees and 384 stores in attendance.

Master of Ceremonies and Merchandise Project Manager for Sapphire, Tony Matteo welcomed members to the fourth Expo under the IHG banner. He asked members to keep those communities suffering from the effects of flood, fire and drought in their thoughts, “as we focus on building successful independents.”

International speakers

The important theme of ‘working together’ was also reiterated as terrorist attack survivor, Gill Hicks, was the first speaker to take to the stage during the business sessions.  

Gill Hicks spoke in an incredibly positive tone of her experience of the 2005 London terrorist bombings. As she faces life as a double amputee, she also spoke on the importance of humanity and human connection, which helped her through her darkest moments.

Second guest speaker and global hardware industry expert, Steve Collinge, also returned to the stage after presenting to members during the 2019 Expo. Founding Insight Industry Group in 2010, Mr Collinge provides the latest industry news and market intelligence for suppliers, retailers and distributors operating in the home improvement market.

See full details of Mr Collinge’s presentation in an upcoming edition of AHJ.

Throughout his presentation, Mr Collinge reminded the audience of the current disruption in the global home improvement industry, which is expected to change where customers buy, how they buy and every aspect of how retailers deal with their customers. He also spoke about winning in trade, looking at the changing DIY consumer, future proofing categories such as garden, housewares and smart home, as well as transformation of businesses.

Executive presentation

Prior to the executive presentation, a warm welcome was given to special guests from Metcash, and Mitre 10 New Zealand, including Metcash Chief Executive Officer, Jeff Adams; newly appointed Non-Executive Director, Peter Birtles; Metcash Chief Financial Officer, Brad Soller; Mitre 10 New Zealand Chairman, Martin Dipp; and newly appointed New Zealand Mitre 10 Chief Executive Officer, Chris Wilesmith.

The executive presentation from IHG Chief Executive Officer, Mark Laidlaw, General Manager of Merchandising and incoming IHG Chief Executive Officer Annette Welsh, as well as IHG Trade Manager, Toby Loft kicked off official proceedings.

While it seems attendees expected Mr Laidlaw’s opening address to include his usual summary on the ‘year that was’ and initiatives to drive the business forward, Mr Laidlaw began his opening address by directing members’ attention to the devastating South Australian, New South Wales and Victorian bushfires, and how this has affected 48 stores in the fire zones and 17 stores in emergency zones, with store owners and staff losing seven of their homes.

It was then that Mr Laidlaw asked members for their assistance in “working together through tough times”.

“The last three months have been unbelievable with the Australian fires 12 times the size of the 2019 Amazon fires at one point. Many of our stores have been at the forefront of these fires. A lot of them being the Thrifty-Links and True Value stores who serve their local communities very well.”

“These towns are now left to rebuild their homes and entire communities. Some towns have lost everything, there really is nothing left. It is for this reason our National Advisory Council began setting up a National Relief Fund back in November. At the time the fund was set up to help with those directly affected by the terrible drought and also assist stores’ mounting credible legal campaigns against big box operators for their mis-use of power,” Mr Laidlaw said.

The National Relief Fund, which was launched to members in January, will result in a pool of funds that is matched dollar for dollar by IHG.  The National Advisory Council will be the authorising body of how the funds are spent, with many worthy causes such as BlazeAid up for discussion at the next meeting.  


Mr Laidlaw then went on to summarise the importance of ensuring IHG’s ‘Superior Service Strategies’ are continually implemented in-store. 

“If we want to differentiate ourselves, our superior service strategy needs to be based on knowledge, advice, convenience and inspiration. This is why we developed our ‘Superior Service Strategies’ pyramid. At the bottom, the pyramid highlights that our stores had to be famous for something. We then had to match our customers’ expectations through price, range and getting our standards right through the ‘Sapphire’ transformation program,” Mr Laidlaw said.

“Differentiation comes from areas that outperform the market, including ‘superior service’ and ‘building trade’. It helps to have convenient locations with a strong online presence, providing knowledge and advice, while also building a trade technology model. If we get this right, only then could we differentiate ourselves by being locally owned. Too many small stores think that everyone will support them just because they are the only local store in their community. It will not happen unless you get these things right,” he said.

Mr Laidlaw also touched on branding, recognising that it remains an emotional topic for members, particularly with the IHG group now made up of four strong brands.

“In saying this, the National Advisory Committee (NAC) has decided that to effectively compete with Bunnings, we need to have a strong, priority brand. Today 70 per cent of our volume does go through the Mitre 10 brand, with 27 per cent volume through Home Timber & Hardware. Our 162 smaller stores are at three per cent but importantly servicing small communities, and important to our business.”

IHG’s trade tagline also remains a contentious issue, according to Mr Laidlaw, with the most recent trade tagline being ‘Get in, get out and get on with it’. 

“We did some research in Tasmania and 70 per cent of respondents suggested we go with Home Timber & Hardware’s original ‘Go where the tradies go’. This is not to replace ‘Mighty Helpful, Mitre 10’, but it is the tagline we would recommend for trade advertising moving forward,” he said.

Incoming CEO addresses members

Incoming IHG Chief Executive Officer and current General Manager of Merchandising, Annette Welsh, went on to discuss IHG’s outlook for the next few years. Ms Welsh also touched on the Expo’s theme of ‘working together through tough times’ by first addressing how the downturn in the Australian economy had affected the hardware industry in recent years.

With the Australian economy enduring a relatively tough 12 months, Ms Welsh said the correction has also hit the building industry in the last 12 months.

“The word from economists is that there is a better balance coming, and the balance of supply and demand in the housing market has reset itself. There is expected growth returning to the building sector in the next 18 months and consumer confidence will be around 2.5 per cent growth in 2020. But it is still on really shaky ground and I think we are still in for some uncertain times in retail,” she said.

“In saying this, it is in the tough times when we become stronger. One of the things that has happened in the last 12 months is that everyone in this room has looked at every cost line in their business and reset a lower cost base. This also makes us really well placed for when the economy recovers. With over 200 stores now providing scan data, I have confidence in our members because even through the last 12 months, the majority of you have held market share and actually grown share within in your local market,” Ms Welsh said.

Whole of house strategy

Introduced around 18 months ago, IHG’s ‘Whole of house’ strategy was designed as a preferred model for the trade. When presenting opportunities through the five stages of building, Ms Welsh said members were really good at some of the stages of the model, however, a bigger basket size was still achievable via trade.

“We have the ability to take our ‘Whole of house’ sales from 30 per cent of the house to 70 per cent of the house. This is not just about trade either because the last two stages of a home build are ‘Fix’ and ‘Fit Out,’” she said.

Trade technology a priority

IHG National Trade Manager, Toby Loft, then took to the stage and explained to members how IHG has worked with suppliers to unlock the value of its segmented customer base and give its stores the ability to go to their builders and provide solutions not previously available. This includes IHG and the Trade Action Group (TAG) recently investing over $1 million into trade technology, he said.

“While others are playing with technology to get their builders in and out of stores, we are looking at technology to help our stores, and your builders, to grow sales and reduce costs. We have managed to stretch that million dollars to deliver a suite of products that help us continue to outperform in trade. We want to engage with the builder with ‘Trade Online’ – this is their entry point into their account so they can see statements, invoices and proof of delivery from job sites.”

“We also want to connect with our builders through Trade Sync (a transactional cost saving opportunity) and deliver via Truck Tracker, where tradies get a text when a delivery is on the way and proof of delivery, including photos and signature, delivered by an independent who knows trade. The most important thing for builders is having their product on-site when they need it. We also intend to create loyalty with our Trade Plus Pass and deliver insight to the stores on how to manage their trade sales team,” Mr Loft said.

However, the biggest investment store owners can make is in their people, which is why IHG is also investing in trade sales training, Mr Loft said.

“We did a lot of work in understanding what was required in trade sales trading and developed an eight-module trade sales training program to allow stores to go from order takers and problem solvers through to business partners and industry experts,” he said.

New concepts

Ms Welsh then returned to the stage to run through several new concepts IHG has implemented over the past few years, including its Click & Collect Program. The program was first to market when it was launched in 2011, and now boasts 12,000 SKU’s. 

“We now only need 24 hours to advertise a product and put it online. This model has the potential to be at $30 million in sales from new customers and we are also trialling Click & Deliver this year,” Ms Welsh said.

Another new concept is the connected home space which Ms Welsh said is a slow burn, future trend. 

“They key thing we have learned in connected home is the average basket size is at $600-$700, and customers are willing to pay this, but it is not a set and forget item, with investment required in your staff’s training. Supply and Install is also being trialled with heating and cooling currently,” she said.


In closing, Ms Welsh said she believed IHG has never been as united as it is currently and there is very good reason to feel confident in the business. 

“We have got the largest network of 650 conveniently located stores in Australia. We have strong brands, solid foundations and a best practice, world class supply chain model, with the only distribution centres for independents in Australia. We outperform in our consumer driven approach, in superior service that provides solutions, trade, technology, Omni channel, digital, loyalty and we work together to ensure we have the best business.”

“I have great confidence that we can go from good to great and I reassure you that independence will stay the blood of this company and will be fought for every single day,”
she said.

Incoming CEO

When closing the business session it  seemed pertinent for Mr Laidlaw to address members on Ms Welsh’s new role, as he retires as IHG Chief Executive Officer, effective May 1.

“It is so important to understand that Ms Welsh was not gifted this job. She went through a rigorous process that involved very good internal candidates and CEOs from overseas and I am delighted Jeff Adams and the Metcash board have made this decision. She will keep what is good but make it her own and fight for independents and that’s very important,” he said.

Awards of Excellence


2019 SUPPLIER OF THE YEAR – LOGISTICS – Victorian Freight Specialists 

Victorian Freight Specialists Director, John Rowe, said he was thrilled to go home and show the award to all the hard-working people that service and support the group. 

“Suppliers in the room understand that a lot of the towns they service sadly have been in the news for not the best reason. VFS would not be here without the support of all the suppliers in the towns we service.”

2019 SUPPLIER OF THE YEAR – DIY – Dulux – Dorothy Grouios

During the presentation Dulux was said to have strengthened its commitment to the group by ensuring IHG benefits fully from the Dulux Paint Insights, research and development, and brand knowledge. Dulux also recently assisted 120 stores to roll out a core range in just 18 months. 


“On behalf of CSR Bradford, it is a wonderful honour to receive this tonight. A big thank you to IHG members and staff who are always so professional and always looking for a win in sales,” Darren Burgess said upon receiving the award.


2019 ‘MIGHTY HELFUL’ PAUL MURPHY SERVICE AWARD – Bob Arnold Crameri’s Mitre 10 Maryborough.

Accepting the award on behalf of Bob Arnold, Crameri’s Mitre 10 owner, Bernie Crameri said,” Bob is dedicated to his customers, staff and Mitre 10. He knows his customers’ names and every project they are working on.”

2019 BLUE BLOOD AWARD – Vince Tebb, Business Development Manager

Award recipient Vince Tebb said, “It has been a pretty solid few years and I want to take the opportunity to congratulate Mark Laidlaw and the team for bringing IHG and the two major parties together successfully.”

2019 CEO RECOGNITION AWARD – Paul Brown, Margaret River WA

Mr Laidlaw said the winner had earned the respect of the NAC, “which is not easy, and had the courage to speak up. He is passionate and a true team player.”

On receiving the award, Mr Brown said, “I love the brand and where it is headed. I would like to acknowledge the team that allow me to do what I do. The people on the NAC are just fantastic as well. Thank you also to my wife Sharon,” he said.


2019 VILLAGE OF THE YEAR – Western Warriors

IHG State Sales Manager for WA, Hailey Radalj said, “The Western Warriors cover the entire state of WA, which is over 4000 kilometres. Somehow, we pull together and we have an incredible group of people, who support each other, work hard and are passionate about their businesses.” 


Business Development Manager, David Voulgaris accepted the award on the store’s behalf and said, “for those who do not know, the Lennox Head business it is about 130 square metres in size and is almost a 7 Eleven of hardware. This is reflected in the range and marketing. It gets behind all initiatives and instils what the Thrifty Link brand really is.”

2019 MITRE 10 STORE OF THE YEAR – SMALL FORMAT – Strathalbyn Mitre 10, SA

On receiving his first national win Brad Fuss said, “this award is a great check point for our business. My team have created a great product and it gives me a tremendous level of fulfilment watching them strive to make things better on a daily basis. I congratulate them on their effort and for IHG for supporting my dreams from the start.”

2019 HTH STORE OF THE YEAR – UNDER 1000 SQUARE METRES – Waroona Home Timber & Hardware, WA

Mark and Barbara Hiller’s business partner, Mike Walmsley, accepted the award saying, “the thing about Mark and Barb is they work particularly hard as most small businesses do in this challenging time. Thank you to the IHG group, it is a great recognition for the hard work they do.”

2019 MITRE 10 STORE OF THE YEAR- MEDIUM FORMAT –Wills & Co. Mitre 10, Waikerie SA

On receiving the award Mike Wills said, “With the amount of development we have done over the last few years we could not have done this without IHG and all our suppliers. They were just brilliant, working to a time line and got the end result that we were looking for.”

2019 GARDEN CENTRE OF THE YEAR – Diamond Valley Mitre 10, VIC

Diamond Valley representative Paige Hastings said the store’s garden centre is, “unique to our business and we think we thrive in it. However, our business is nothing without the amazing staff we have. Every day they come and put 110 per cent in it and treat the business as if it is their own.”

2019 TRADE CENTRE OF THE YEAR – Johnson Brothers Mitre 10, Mona Vale NSW

Johnson Brothers representative, Michael Johnson, thanked IHG for taking the business to the next level. I would love to thank our staff who work well with us. It is brilliant how they get behind us. We are spotless and customer focused and pride ourselves on our service.”

2019 HTH STORE OF THE YEAR – OVER 1000 SQUARE METRES – Permewans HTH – Hamilton VIC

Owners Paul and Denise Bast said they were very proud of the business and what they have achieved.

“Our store opened in one of the best places in Australia. Denise had faith in the store at the time we bought the business and we just did not stop, developing the store to what it is now. We have transformed the store over three months and received considerable growth during the opening of a local Bunnings store,” Paul Bast said.

2019 MITRE 10 STORE OF THE YEAR – LARGE FORMAT – Benalla Mitre 10, VIC

Gary and Jan Woodruff said it was incredible what they have achieved in the last five years.

“I believe the independent sector is alive and well. Thank you to Jan my wife, who has been with me through thick and thin. We have experienced all aspects of win, lose and draw in hardware. We all stand on someone’s shoulders and I would like to thank my father John for his support,” Gary Woodruff said.

2020 HALL OF FAME – Norm Hastings and Frank Benton – Diamond Valley Mitre 10 

Diamond Valley Mitre 10 founder, Norm Hastings’ children spoke on behalf of the family when receiving the award.

Daughter, Paige Hastings said the business started 41 years ago when a working-class couple with a two-year-old son, took a gamble and started their own business.” 

“The business started in a shed selling only timber, with every dollar they earned going back into the business and growing it to where it is today. They spent their entire life working in the business and running us kids around.”

Norm’s son Brock Hastings also thanked his father Norm, and Frank, who joined the business 27 years ago and is the store’s expert in merchandising, organisation and planning. 

“At a time when most were slowing down, Dad and Frank set about building a store 10 times the size of the original store,” he said.

Norm Hastings also said growing the business was all about the people you work with and the people you deal with in the community. 

“I love both of them so it was easy and I enjoyed it. IHG created a viable future for Mitre 10, thanks to many people, including Mark Laidlaw, who have helped me learn how to run a good business,” he said.

Exhibitor Awards

Several Exhibitor of the Year Awards were also presented to suppliers during the Expo Trade Show, including the following winners:


EXHIBITOR OF THE YEAR – MEDIUM – Stanley Black & Decker


Queensland Hardware Industry Awards 2019

Over 130 guests represented the Queensland hardware industry, on Saturday July 13 at Rydges Southbank in Brisbane, to celebrate the Queensland Hardware Industry Awards. 

Recognising all things great about the independent hardware industry, the Hardware Australia awards not only include several Store of the Year Awards, but also Employee of the Year, Sales Representative of the Year, Supplier of the Year, Industry Rising Star and Hardware Industry Legend Awards.

Store of the Year Awards

Kicking off proceedings were the Store of the Year Awards, presented by Hardware Australia’s Executive Officer, Alicia Oelkers. Highlighting four sub-categories, the awards are judged independently and are based on overall performance, employee retention, team building, innovation, marketing and community involvement. 

Award criteria includes confidential telephone interviews with either the store owner or manager, with each question discussed by the judging panel to source the overall winner, according to Ms Oelkers. Regional conditions are also taken into consideration.

Category nominations may be submitted by store owners or managers via self-nominations, industry buying groups or suppliers. All winners receive their awards along with a media release to submit to local media outlets to celebrate their wins.

Store of the Year Award winners:

Store of the Year – Under 2500 square metres – CNW Electrical Gladstone

Store of the Year – Over 2500 square metres – Sunshine Mitre 10 Gympie

Trade Store of the Year – BMS Mitre 10

Garden Department of the Year – Porter’s Mitre 10 Mackay City

Employee of the Year Award

The Employee of the Year Award is designed specifically to not only recognise those who continually excel within their day to day duties, but also recognise those who demonstrate ongoing loyalty to their store. Nominees are judged on their achievements over the last 12 months, knowledge of their department or current role requirement and standard of customer service. Previous winners are well known for going over and above for their customers on a regular basis and continually taking pride in their work.

Employee of the Year Award – Kathy Draper of Sunshine Mitre 10, Roma.

Kathy has worked in her role at Sunshine Mitre 10, Roma, as the store’s Retail and Trade Manager for over 13 years. During this time, Kathy and her team have worked closely in developing strong relationships with local builders since the store was taken over by the Sunshine Mitre 10 Group. Kathy has become so successful in her role, local builders rarely shop anywhere else, according to Ms Oelkers.

“Kathy is always looking for ways she can improve herself and her team, and is currently completing a Certificate IV in Building and Construction. Hardware to her is more than just an everyday job, it is a career for her to learn more and challenge herself,” Ms Oelkers said.  

Sales Representative of the Year

The Sales Representative of the Year Award is one of the most hotly contested categories, according to Ms Oelkers, with nominations often put forward by store owners and managers who believe their employee is one of the best. In determining the award, nominees are asked a series of questions including how they have gone above and beyond for their customers in the last 12 months, what they enjoy about the hardware industry, and their goals for the future.

“Past winners are often rewarded for going that extra mile for stores within the territories they look after, even if it means working on the weekend or driving for three hours to country stores. They will do what it takes to make sure the store has all the resources to look after their clients,” Ms Oelkers said.

Sales Representative of the Year – Nick Sommerfeld – Makita

Although Nick joined Makita just over four years ago, he has already achieved a substantial amount, not only for his company but for his clients as well. 

“Previously a carpenter by trade, the transition into power tool sales was seamless for Nick. Over the past 12 months, Nick has assisted his regional customers in achieving record breaking sales and has also taken a great deal of satisfaction in seeing their businesses grow as a result of his help. He is described as reliable, diligent and honourable,” Ms Oelkers said.

Supplier of the Year Awards

Boasting eight sub categories, including the overall Supplier of the Award, these awards are a significant part of the awards ceremony. In determining winners, a short list is collaborated by state committee members and a poll is put out to stores, with the winner of each category achieving the most votes. The overall Supplier of the Year also receives the greatest number of votes across all categories.

Industry Rising Star Award

Recognised as one of the most covenant awards in the industry, the Industry Rising Star Award celebrates a bright future, with Rising Stars renowned as some of the best and brightest youth in the industry. The lucky winner receives 12 months of industry mentoring and support to assist with their career goals.

“Criteria for nominees include being under the age of 27, with nominees either being a store employee or industry supplier, employed for over 12 months, and have demonstrated continued growth throughout their career within hardware industry,” Ms Oelkers said.

“A telephone interview is conducted with each nominee, with their responses then put forward to our industry mentoring panel who evaluate each person and decide on the winners. The winners for each state then come together the following year for leadership training and development, meet their mentors and set goals to assist in the achievement of their ultimate career goals.”

Industry Rising Star winner – Katy Nicholls-Hurley – Jeays Hardware

As this year’s Industry Rising Star Award Winner, Katy Nicholls-Hurley is described by her peers as passionate, knowledgeable, easy going and bubbly. Katy began her hardware career working within her auntie and uncle’s hardware business in Kingaroy at the age of just 13.

“When her uncle rang her and told her to, ‘put on black pants and a blue shirt and turn up at 9 am on Saturday’, little did she know this would be the beginning of a long career,” according to Ms Oelkers.

“Beginning work in the paint department, Katy quickly found a way to could combine her passion for helping people and her own creativity. It was no wonder, with her enthusiasm, that when she moved to Brisbane three years ago, she was quickly snapped up by Jeays Mitre 10. It is here that Katy has really flourished, becoming the merchandising expert within the store. Her customers know her by name and recommend her to their friends and family. Katy hopes to learn interior design and incorporate this into the hardware industry, viewing the two as working hand in hand. Her dream job is to be the female version of Scotty Cam,” Ms Oelkers said.

Brian Lee Hardware Industry Legend Award

The Hardware Industry Legend Award recognises individuals who display continuous commitment and support to the hardware industry within their state. These individuals have not only help shape the independent hardware industry in the past or present, but have also showed determination to secure their future; this could be through expansion of their own business, involvement in various committee and industry bodies or helping fellow hardware owners to reach their potential or get them through tough times, Ms Oelkers said. 

Nominations for this award are submitted by either store owners, managers, employees or industry suppliers.  

Brian Lee Hardware Industry Legend Award winner – Clint Spence – Beaudesert Mitre 10 

Clint started his career at Beaudesert Hardware in 1977 as a counter boy. He later became Store Manager in 1999 just as the GST was implemented, which proved to be one of the most challenging times in his career, Ms Oelkers said.

“Clint still has fond memories of Beaudesert Mitre 10’s 50-year anniversary. The celebrations included a full page spread in the local newspaper and a party with past and present employees and suppliers. More recently, the store celebrated its 55th Anniversary. Twelve years ago, Clint was recruited by the late Brian Lee to join the then HAQ committee and he now is the current chair of Queensland’s Hardware Australia Committee. He is also on the board of the local chamber of commerce and also has a seat on the committee for an aged care facility in Beaudesert. Clint is truly a valued member of the hardware industry and within his local community. He has a passion for our industry. He is described by his team as a quiet and selfless leader who wants nothing but the best for the people around him and for the industry he loves,” Ms Oelkers said.

30+ Years of Service

Several long serving representatives of the hardware industry were also awarded the 30+ Years of Service award, recognising over three decades of ongoing service to the industry.

30+ Years of Service Award winners

Jason Maltby – Bowen Home Timber & Hardware

Deen Saint – Sunshine Mitre 10

Gerald Harris – Sunshine Mitre 10 

Peter Preston – Sunshine Mitre 10 

Glen Salway – Sunshine Mitre 10

Brian Savage – Sunshine Mitre 10

Sponsors of the event included, Event Sponsor – Dulux, Gold sponsors – IHG & HBT, Silver Sponsors – Hyne Timber and Bronze Sponsors, Makita, Tabma Australia and Bremick.

The South Australian Hardware Industry Awards Dinner was also held on August 2, with all event details coming up in the September edition of AHJ.

Inspirations Paint 17th National Conference 2019

Inspirations Paint held its 17th National Conference in Hamilton Island, Queensland from May 22-25. The bi-annual conference brought together franchisees and key business suppliers, with a total of 264 delegates, including 27 suppliers, attending the conference. Supplier sponsorship ranged from Platinum to Bronze, with Dulux, Cabot’s and Poly/Rota-Cota…

CSS Melbourne Conference 2019

CSS (Construction Supply Specialists) held its national conference at the Melbourne Showgrounds and Melbourne Cricket Ground May 22-25, with 60 out of its 64 members attending the market day, workshops and awards night.

HBT’s Melbourne Conference 2019

HBT’s (Hardware & Building Traders) National Conference began with an air of excitement and enthusiasm as over 300 stores, up 50 stores on last year, collaborated at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre for three days of workshops, trade show and the newly programed awards night…

Hardware Australia 2019

As the largest event of its kind in the Australian independent hardware sector, and the third Expo to be held since the formation of IHG, the Expo did not disappoint with 85 per cent of the group’s store volume in attendance and over 220 suppliers, representing all DIY and trade categories.

IHG Conference 2019

As the largest event of its kind in the Australian independent hardware sector, and the third Expo to be held since the formation of IHG, the Expo did not disappoint with 85 per cent of the group’s store volume in attendance and over 220 suppliers, representing all DIY and trade categories…