Retail Focus: Maclean Bring it Home

After only three years of trading, Maclean Home Hardware was awarded New South Wales Store of the Year for 2005 at the recent Danks NSW State Conference. Pauline Hoogen reports…

Store: Maclean Home Hardware
Owners: Nick Clark and Glenn Essex
Group: John Danks

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The front of the store

Maclean is a small town with a population of 3,500, situated in the beautiful Northern Rivers area of New South Wales. It is a three-hour drive to Brisbane, a nine-hour drive to Sydney and 15 minutes from the picturesque coastal town of Yamba. The area has on more than one occasion been honoured with the distinction of having one of the top ten climates in the world. Once renowned for its fishing and sugarcane industries, the area today relies heavily on tourism, which is a growing part of the local economy.

Family Matters

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Staff member, Matt Dickson, serving a customer in the paint section

The store is owned and run by partners Nick Clark and Glenn Essex, who opened the doors at Maclean Home Hardware in August, 2003. Nick, originally from Port Macquarie before moving with his family to Maclean, has a long history of working in the hardware industry, starting out with BBC Hardware and then with Hardwarehouse and ultimately Bunnings. He has held numerous management positions and did a stint on the store conversion team responsible for rebranding Campbells Hardware & Timber (QLD) to BBC Hardware. After an eight year stretch managing various stores for BBC Hardware throughout Queensland, Nick, and his wife Lyneice, who had started their own family, decided it was time to move back to be closer to their families in Maclean. Nick took up a position with BBC Hardware managing their stores in Yamba and Maclean, and his children, Hayden (10), Callum (8) and Mackenzie (4), now get to enjoy spending time with their extended family in this idyllic part of Australia.

Glenn Essex is a local from Maclean who spent many years working in the sugarcane industry. Glenn and his wife, Eileen, have two high-school aged children, Nathan and Amy. Apart from their friendship, Glenn and Nick share a passion for their families and for providing them with a sound foundation. So, when Bunnings decided to close their store in Mclean, the pair saw it as a perfect opportunity to go into business together. With the lease paid out, the store remained vacant for six months, before opening as Maclean Home Hardware.

Secret to Success
The success of the store has been nothing short of phenomenal, surpassing any predictions that Nick and Glenn had imagined. “We set our goal for the store to almost double its turnover within a five-year period and we reached that goal within the first full twelve months of trading. In the second year, we revised our budget three times. The business seems to have hit a plateau about five or six months ago which makes budgeting and staff rostering a bit easier,” Nick explained.

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Lyneice Clark with a happy customer

When asked to reveal the secret to the success of the store, Nick quickly responded that they are driven by customer service. “The two most important parts of any business are the people you employ and your customers. When we opened the store, we employed ten people. We now have a staff of 28. We are very fortunate to have such a great bunch of people working in the store. If you have the right people working with you, it generates sales,” Nick added. He purposefully avoids the term ‘team’ when he talks about the people who work in the store, preferring to use the term ‘family’. “I think the word ‘team’ is so American and suggests it is driven by one or two people, which doesn’t reflect what we have here,” Nick said. Three of Lyniece’s brothers work in the store, so the business has given the whole family stability.

Bunnings took the decision to close their store in Yamba about five months after Maclean Home Hardware commenced trading. They boldly predicted that by closing their smaller stores in Maclean and Yamba and concentrating on their larger regional store at Grafton, some 30 minutes away, that customers would travel to shop there. From Nick’s past experience at Bunnings he knows that they consider their warehouses to be a destination. Perhaps underestimating the sense of community, things didn’t quite work that way with customers preferring to shop locally, where they are known by name. Apart from the windfall in additional sales as a result of the closure, Maclean Home Hardware were also fortunate to secure the services of four experienced management personnel who also wanted to stay local. “Your business becomes a job when instead of running itself, it is running you. Glenn and I roster ourselves off for one full day each week and only work half days on Saturday and Sunday. That way we can follow our personal pursuits. Glenn is involved with junior rugby league and I am a director of the local RSL Club and a Rural Fire Serviceman. We know we can leave the business for a few days and come back to no surprises because of the calibre of the people we have in our business,” Nick said.

Community Spirit
The store is very much part of the community and budget for participation in community activities. They like to ensure an even spread and rather than just sponsor a local football club, they enjoy getting involved in a wide range of community projects. An example is the new landing strip which was built at the local hospital to accommodate the Westpac Rescue Helicopter. Maclean Home Hardware donated materials and money to the project.

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L-R: Steven Johnson (Danks), Nick Clark, Ian Back (Danks), Lyneice Clark, Brad Richards (Danks), Eileen Essex, Glen Essex and Kevin Carr (Danks) with their award for NSW Store of the Year

The business is set to grow further with the recent acquisition of Lower Clarence Timbers. Rebadged to Home Hardware and trading this month, this bulk timber sales centre will enable Maclean Home Hardware to fulfill its total catalogue commitments to its customers. With DART (Danks Advanced Retail Technology) the stores will have real time access to information to ensure they are run as a collective business.

“Whilst we were delighted to be honoured with the ‘Store of the Year’ award, to be honest, it wasn’t even on our radar. We just wanted to get in and build a successful business,” said Nick. Judging by the success of the business so far and the expected growth with their latest acquisition, there will doubtless be more accolades to come.