Hey Mac, what’s your secret?

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Store: Mac’s Home Timber & Hardware, Warners Bay, NSW
Proprietors: McIntyre family
Group: John Danks & Son

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Warners Bay, on the upper shores of Lake Macquarie about 155km north of Sydney, is a small, village-style community with expansion on its mind.

Mac´s Home Timber & Hardware is located in the “village-style” community of Warners Bay in NSW

If you look at the town (population 8,000) on a map, it might not appear conducive to a thriving hardware business, but Mac’s Home Timber & Hardware has not only flourished since its establishment in 1960, it has also been recognised as one of the Australia’s most impressive Home stores. It was named Home Store of the Year in 1996 and 1999, and also won the National Home Store of the Year in 1999. That’s a lot of awards for a regional business in a small town.

Tony McIntyre in the Home Paint Centre

Founded by Don and Mary McIntyre, the business started as a timber yard supplied by a sawmill in Taree. Don was a director of the mill before its closure in 1962, and spent the subsequent years consolidating the timber and hardware business with his wife Mary and their seven children.

The store’s genesis as a timber yard might go some way to explaining its ensuing popularity. The “retail” component of the business was complemented from the outset by a service-oriented milling operation, whereby customers received assistance with deliveries, custom machining and all the extra personalised care that goes hand-in-hand with a mill. Says Tony McIntyre, who now runs the business with his siblings Bruce, Chris and Trish: “We still have a fully operational timber machining shop, where we can machine timber, cut sheets and edge band melamine to suit the customer’s needs.

“We also offer a carpentry service, including screen and security door installations, all of which are made to measure ready to install or fully installed.”

Do It for Me (DIFM)

Mac’s takes service provision to an even higher level with its DIFM offering. “We have a group of carpenters and handymen that we arrange to install timber flooring, entrance and internal doors as well as staining and painting of doors, internal painting and tiling, installation of roof vents etc.,” he says. The readiness to offer services extends to key cutting, picture frame mitring and cutting, door retiling and trimming, paint colour matching and deliveries to the Newcastle and Lower Hunter regions.

Team members, Kev and Shirley at the Hardware Service Centre

In addition to reaping the rewards of maintaining an exemplary service-oriented business ethic, Mac’s has benefited from its location in a growing area where building activity is bustling. Marketshare, however, is constantly threatened by competitors — there are enough of them in the immediate area to sink a Lake Macquarie cabin cruiser. They include 24 building supply stores within one kilometre of Mac’s, plus another 19 hardware stores within a 12-kilometre radius.

“Warners Bay is a lakeside suburb and it and its surrounding areas are fast becoming some of the most sought-after residential suburbs in the Newcastle area,” says Tony. “In the last 10 years, Warners Bay has become a retail hub for home improvement retailers.”

Future challenges

“A big challenge has been to retain and regain marketshare after the ‘barns’ have come to town,” Tony admits. “With three barns appearing in the last five years in the Newcastle-Lake Macquarie region, it isn’t hard to figure out where the growth of the smaller hardware stores has gone, or why we’ve seen the demise of older-style stores that have trouble keeping pace with the changing times of retailing.”

Tony explains that expansion has always been a part of the Mac’s master plan, but this is being achieved through the establishment of a new store rather than over-expansion of the primary premises.

Staff at Mac’s are ready and willing to serve

“We have just acquired a Thrifty Link store in an adjoining suburb and are in the middle of a relay and re-branding it to ‘Home’,” he says. “We see this as one way of achieving growth in the current market dominated by the barns. Although the new store at Elermore Vale is only 140 square metres we can use the Warners Bay store to deliver our larger product range to another 4000 households.”

According to Tony, belonging to the Danks group since 1971 has been vital for the business’ growth. The McIntyre family has participated in the Danks evolution from Homestead to Homesaver through to the current group configuration.

“We are also a member of TABMA and have been finalists and award winners in the categories of Best Building Materials Centre and Outstanding Customer Service.”

A key benefit of group membership, Tony reveals, has been the distribution of Danks’ advertising catalogues.

Kev, Rod Cath and Tony McIntyre´s nephew, Paul in the Hardware Service Centre.

“Dogalogues are distributed through the local newspaper to 15,000 addresses in the local area, but the larger Newcastle – Lake Macquarie region has around 120,000 households. We advertise through TV or radio, mainly to support the catalogue and sales events, as well as doing some Mac’s Corporate Branding with our own TV ad.”

If diligent service provision is an essential part of the business, product selection is an equally important consideration. The store features products from all major reputable suppliers in the market.

“Timber is by far our biggest department with sheet products (Hardies, Plywood Particleboard, MDF, & Flooring), followed closely by doors, which are doing very well,” says Tony.

“Inside the store paint is the number one department, followed by general hardware.

We are a big supporter of Home Paint and have been since Homestead days when we found that the name brand paint we were selling was not moving as well as the Home branded product.

At the moment the client makeup is around 40% trade, 60% consumer, with 50% of all clients being account customers. “We directly target our account customers with offers inserted within the monthly account statement,” says Tony.

“We like to think that the way we service our customers is different,” he adds. “We are located in a village community, we know a lot of customers by name and we offer a friendly and personal service; our customers are our friends. We may not have everything in stock but we will always try to fill the customers’ requests or direct them to the right supplier.”

Written by John Power