A whale of a business

Do-Lots Hardware, with bases in Hervey Bay and Maryborough, Queensland, is a business that never stays idle. It is constantly expanding, evolving and reaching for new opportunities.

________________________________

Store: Do-Lots Hardware
Principals: Vieglais family
Groups: NBSG, Mitre 10 & Plumbtec

________________________________

Many people think of Hervey Bay, Queensland, as a temperate tourist destination – a slow-paced holiday centre that keeps time to the rhythm of passing whales and giant turtles. But behind the sleepy image lies a self-sufficient populace that is bustling with construction and renovation activity. ItÕs a market that has tremendous potential for hardware and timber sales, and Do-Lots Hardware is waiting in the shallows ready to pounce.

The Hyne Timber store in Hervey Bay, QLD is just one of the three stores that form part of the Do-Lots network

The business began in 1985 when Andrew Vieglais took over one of a chain of Hosborough stores. The outlets were being sold off by Christopher Skase, and Andrew bought the 600 square-metre business – known as Pearce’s Hardware – and later converted it into a Mitre 10 branded store. In its early days half the floor space was devoted to gift and homewares, however it was clear that a more comprehensive trade and retail outlet was required to cater to the demands of the rapidly growing local economy. “In 1989 the current store was constructed as a service centre for the tradespeople of Hervey Bay,” says Adam Vieglais, Andrew’s son and general manager of Do-Lots Hardware. “This store is now our main retail store and occupies floor space of just over 2,500 square metres.”

Adam Vieglais is the general manager of Do-Lots Hardware

The focus on Hervey Bay, with its 50,000 residents, quickly flared to encompass the nearby community of Maryborough, a more industrial and rural town with about 40,000 inhabitants. According to Adam, Do-Lots Hardware acted on its interest in Maryborough by establishing a small, 300 square-metre plumbing outlet in the town in 1998. That foray paid immediate dividends and quickly led to expanded premises.

“There was an obvious demonstrated need from our customers in Maryborough for a larger retail-oriented store, so we moved into a new retail site of about 1,000 square metres in December 2000,” Adam explains. “Since that time a trade centre of 600 square metres has been added to the original development.”

Continuous change
In its brief history, therefore, the business has undergone relocations, expansions and specialisations in tune with trade or retail demands. Despite this highly energised existence, Do-Lots has also managed to acquire another (third) site servicing the trade needs of the Hervey Bay area.

“In Hervey Bay we recently acquired a former Hyne Timber operation, and this store of 3,000 square metres under one roof is now our Building Materials Centre dedicated to servicing the tradespeople of the Fraser Coast,” says Adam.

Well merchandised displays can be seen through the stores

These business expansions have resulted in a company that now enjoys about 70% trade and 30% consumer custom – a percentage break-down that poses interesting questions regarding supplies. “The Do-Lots group is diverse in product categories and target market,” explains Adam. “As such we have found it necessary to be part of more than one buying group. For our retail hardware we are a part of Mitre 10 and have been since 1985. We are a member of Plumbtec for our plumbing division and a member of NBSG for our trade hardware side. The decision to join NBSG earlier this year was made primarily due to the extra networking it would offer us with larger sized operations such as Hudson’s, Dahlsens, etc.”

“With some fairly heavy restructuring over the last six months to cater for our expanded operations – and some extensive remerchandising and relaying throughout our three stores – we are now better prepared and equipped to take on the challenges of the future,” he adds.

Challenges
Today Do-Lots is a locally owned and operated family business employing around 90 people across its three sites. As a family business, extra attention is paid to looking after and supporting staff members as much as possible. Traineeships are offered to all employees, and there is continual provision of product training in order to enhance each team member’s knowledge.

Outdoor furniture is just one of the product categories that Do Lots provides for its customers

The company’s achievements have come with the usual pressures of competition from other hardware retailers along the popular coastline. Adam envisages many strong tussles as new rivals enter the fray – and it’s not always the biggest fish that wins.

“One of our challenges in the near future will be to handle the introduction of a Bunnings Warehouse into our home base in the next couple of months,” he says. “However, the biggest challenge faced by Do-Lots and everyone in hardware is to keep our customer base happy by constantly exceeding their expectations.”

“First-class customer service, a broad range of product and competitive everyday prices help us to achieve our motto: Do-Lots Hardware, do more for you!”

The company has a demonstrated capacity to react to new marketplace opportunities with barracuda-like swiftness, and its unflappable energy is sure to stand it in good stead as the local demographic expands and diversifies.

Story by John Power