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Total Tools Thebarton
CEO-turned-store owner Greg Heath displays loyalty and confidence in the franchise group and brand he helped shape
There’s nothing outstanding about Total Tools Thebarton when you compare it to the other 35 stores in the franchise family, and that’s exactly the way owner Greg Heath likes it. Although the two-year old suburban store is Adelaide’s biggest professional tools retailer boasting more than 6,000 lines, spread across a massive floor space of 2000+ sqm., its owner prefers to play down the superlatives, while eager to point out that all Total Tools outlets carry an equally substantial range, as that is the main draw card for the group’s loyal customers. He takes the same earnest view of the store’s layout and display. Not only does Greg have no qualms about conforming his store’s image and presentation to the precise mold of the group’s branding stamp, he peddles Total Tool’s signature look and in-store environment as key assets.
Total Tools Thebarton leverages on the eye-catching signature look of its retailing group“It’s like buying a burger from McDonald’s. You know exactly what you’re getting because the quality of the product is consistent throughout the entire chain of restaurants. Similarly, a Total Tools customer visiting from another state walking into our store will immediately find our store environment familiar. He would then be confident of getting the same quality products and service synonymous with the Total Tools name.”
Greg’s resolute endorsement of the corporate brand and his “big picture” take on all things store-related may very well stem from his previous vocation, as CEO of Total Tools. Subsequent to his five-year corporate tenure, the 44-year-old crossed over the fence in May 2011, to ‘walk the talk’ as a store owner.
“I chose to leave that role and do what many managers of our franchise do, that is to take on a store myself. That showed belief in the franchise model and goals in the group to transition from the management team of the franchisor to becoming a franchisee.”
The badge change came as a result of Greg wanting to pursue a balanced lifestyle as a self-employed businessman and to focus on the improvement and delivery of his own operations, as opposed to those of the group as a whole.
“I think I’ve adjusted very well and understand that the transition requires letting go of certain responsibilities. Certainly from my time spent with the Total Tools management team, I stand to benefit from a lot of background information as well as a good understanding of the business model. I understand the areas of the business that you need to focus on and the importance of maintaining good relationships with people from the support office and within the franchise network.”
Prior to taking over the existing non-hardware trading site, located on the main road that links to Adelaide’s CBD, Greg says due diligence involved carrying out a range of market research including a competition and demographic analysis.
Flanked by the River Torrens to the north and Kintore street to the south, Thebarton is a bustling suburb of the city of Adelaide, South Australia. Greg identified location-specific opportunities as high traffic, large site and visibility – notwithstanding 12 near range competitive stores, including a Bunnings outlet around the corner. Another strong positive, Greg notes, is the steady volume of projects that takes advantage of the Southern state’s redevelopment plans, from new hospital buildings to capital works within the CBD.
“All stores have skewing towards certain categories – ours cater predominantly to transient tradesmen and the professional building market, hence the benefits of locating near where the major projects are being sited.”
Graduating into its third 12-month business cycle, Total Tools Thebarton has done convincingly well. The store recently managed double digit year-on-year growth figures, in particular showing its mettle in the product categories for power tools, automotive, storage, welding, safety and hand tools.
The specialist tools store caters to a mixed customer base of professional trade and DIY, although tilting heavily towards the former in its choice of merchandise. “We like to think that our DIY purchasers see our store as being aspirational,” Greg explains.
Leveraging the franchise network
As for his well-stocked range, earning the store its title for being the city’s most comprehensive tools retailer, Greg attributes the head office’s well-oiled buying machinery and the close fraternity of store owners. On the latter point, Greg offers the example of the close working relationship he maintains with Jerry Atkinson, owner of the only other Total Tools store in Adelaide.
“I am in daily contact with Jerry, discussing how to get the best products and prices for our stores, and secure the best deals for our customers. That’s one of the Total Tools business models, to leverage on our franchise network, allowing store owners to collaborate with each other to maximise our synergies, buying and marketing opportunities.”
Greg assures that there is no conflict of interest, but only mutual benefits to gain from such lateral collaborations. Unconsciously wearing his old hat, the former CEO clarifies the group’s strategic location of stores:
“Total Tools carries out a national demographic study to ensure that our stores serve diverse territories across the country, with a view to maximising the number of stores while minimising the direct crossover of those stores.”
The support of the head office is perhaps most appreciated in the area of marketing. Living up to its tagline “Every Trade, Every Tool” requires not only a robust supply chain but also regular marketing rotations to make sure the extensive product lines remain front and centre in the minds of potential customers.
Total Tools stores operate on an active marketing calendar to keep customers updated on the latest promotional activities throughout the year. The strong marketing brand is promoted through various channels including print ads, radio spots, SMS messaging services and email campaigns. Among them, a head office initiative that has received resoundingly positive feedback is the Insiders program.
The program offers customers who shop regularly at a Total Tools store exclusive “Insiders” membership for which the member, who signs up in-store or online, is entitled to receive regular “first-to-market” product information, special buying opportunities and redeem reward points linked to their purchase frequency and volume. “It’s a really strong selling feature especially since the Insiders program is integrated with our business operating system. It’s a centrepiece of the offer from Total Tools to our customers.”
Greg affirms the overall efficacy of the marketing programs, saying: “The goal is to develop a relationship with our customers and communicate with them on a regular basis with informative, valued offers to ensure that you’re top-of-mind.”
Showing his support for the national office, Greg praises the current Total Tools CEO Tim Cockayne and his teammates for giving the stores their much-needed exposure through a calendar-filled series of promotional campaigns. If any franchisee could appreciate what goes on behind-the-scenes to deliver seamless, on-the-dollar group support, it must be Greg.
“I have good understanding of the background work required to develop our programs whether they be marketing, product or network driven. That gives me a better understanding of the extent of work we put in to achieve the promotional objectives of the campaigns that our support office develop.”
For all his former contributions to the group, Greg says that shedding his CEO role to take up the gauntlet as a retailer has been a satisfying experience. Noting that Total Tools has earned a reputation within the supply network as being the most professional outfit in the business, outside of Bunnings, Greg concludes:
“I am happy to have been one of many people who influenced the group’s successful development, and today, I’m also among the grateful franchisees that benefit from the excellent support that we continue to receive from them.”