Clicks and bricks combination

Australian Hardware Journal

Suncoast Building Centre prides itself on helping its customers obtain the products they desire whether it is over the Internet or in the store.

Suncoast Building Centre is situated about half a kilometre from the CBD of Maroochydore

Meeting customers needs is an ongoing concern at Suncoast Building Centre. In fact general manager, Frank Rae is confident in saying that the store is successful in stocking what the customer wants. “Hardwood and pine timber, general hardware, garden, homewares, hand tools, power tools, mouldings, paint, Hardie’s products, Hume doors, door furniture, are all at the customer’s disposal, You want it, we’ve got it!”

Catering for the handyman to the professional builder, the store is one of the leading commercial and domestic lock suppliers in Queensland. According to Rae, Suncoast is one of the top five lock suppliers in Queensland.

Apart from stocking essential products the store has also been proactive in establishing a website to add value to customer service. The website has specific benefits for the store’s existing trade customers.

To cater for its 90% trade customers, timber is heavily stocked in the store and is the store’s biggest selling item

Customers are supplied with a user name and password. Once they have entered these codes, they can access the available 15,000 items which have been specially priced for them. This helps the stores trade customer’s to be able to provide quotes for their own customers (ie the end-user) from the Web page – at any time of the day. They can also make orders online and have them delivered and charged to their account without even coming into the store.

“The website has meant fewer phone calls are made to the store as the builder can now price 24 hours a day via the Internet. This has also assisted us by not having to replace hard copies of our quote book every time there is as price rise,” says Rae. “We make the customer look good to our customer.”

Web prices are updated every Thursday morning at 2am, explains Rae. The store also holds training nights at the local university computer room. Already 45 customers have taught and trained there.

Any glitches can infuriate people wishing to complete an online transaction or inquiry quickly. Suncoast’s website is run “off-site” so employees can contact technical staff operating the site and alert them if the store’s customers are experiencing any problems. The store will try to fix the problem within the hour to quickly appease disgruntled customers.

In terms of the online trading capacity of the store, Rae says that every time an order is placed online, a copy goes through to the manager’s computer. “This is an additional safeguard that ensures that no orders go astray,” he adds. “All orders then go directly to the rep’s office for setting up for selection and delivery.”

Suncoast Building Centre is situated about half a kilometre from the CBD of Maroochydore. The business currently employs 27 permanent staff and four casuals. The store has recently been renovated with many improvements made. It now has more light so is brighter and cleaner which has, not surprisingly, had a positive effect on its clientele.

Representatives, Chris Brush and Cameron Walton.

The store has been in its present position for over 20 years and prior to this was situated at Buderim for 20 years. The actual floor space of the main store is 1,360 square metres with over double that space for the yard and store sheds. Off street parking for over forty cars makes it easy to shop at Suncoast.

The store joined a buying group to maintain a competitive edge on pricing. As a member of the Heavy Building Traders, Rae believes the stores operates with that “pricing edge” which has enabled it to be an effective player in the market place.

The break-up of retail to trade customers is 10% retail and 90% trade. To further satisfy its trade customers, timber is heavily stocked in the store and is the biggest selling item. “We have the largest hardwood stock on the Sunshine Coast along with pine scantling, treated pine, pine mouldings, fencing and sleepers,” says Rae.

The next best selling item at the store are locks. Suncoast Building Centre supply locks all over Queensland and New South Wales to the commercial and architectural sectors of the building industry. Rae attributes the store’s position as a leading stock supplier to its professional staff that have been trained in all facets of the products.

The lastest staff photo at Suncoast Building Centre, taken just last month

Store management has also recognised the increasing importance of the female customer as evidenced from the popularity of garden and homewares products. “More ladies have been coming into the store over the past 18 months to two years and this could be due to the cleaner environment and having more stock lines in homewares and gardening,” says Rae. More specifically, the store offers a delivery service that directly benefits many female customers. Once again, he believes it is the level of knowledge that is passed on to the customer by Suncoast’s well trained staff.

Nexus is the computer system Suncoast is using at the moment. All products except timber are bar coded and the store has scanners at all five POS terminals. “This system is working well in the store and gives us the reports we require.” Rae believes it could possibly be five years before the store will have to change computer systems.

Rae and his staff acknowledge that the future challenges of the store are to ”remain competitive” with larger outlets such as Bunnings. “We give more personal attention and knowledgeable information to our customers than most of the big corporate concerns. This will help us differentiate ourselves from many of our customers now and in the future.”

Written and compiled by Elizabeth Huggins