Stability — through constant change

Customers change their outlooks and preferences all the time — and the only way for retailers to retain a premier position is to change accordingly…

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Store: West Hoxton Hardware & Produce
Owners: Sam & Lou Noiosi
Group: John Danks & Son

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Successful hardware stores are places where customers don’t worry about getting an honest deal and reliable service. Such stores enjoy a high level of consumer trust based on long-standing reliability, and that trust can extend even to first-time customers. That’s because, in the back of the potential customer’s mind, there are thoughts like: “It’s well established; the place is always buzzing; it has a heritage of growth.”

Rich colours in Australia’s centre are inimitable West Hoxton Hardware & Produce in western Sydney has provided quality service for almost 25 years

One such store is West Hoxton Hardware & Produce in western Sydney, NSW. This Home-branded store has won great credibility as a top service provider over nearly a quarter of a century, but the irony is that it has become “established” and “predictably reliable” by never standing still. Heritage, it appears, is dependent on constant change.

The business was started by Sam Noiosi in 1979 as a small one-man operation, and in the intervening years it has grown under the direction of Sam and his brother Lou to become a 100-carpark enterprise with retail and yard facilities covering a total area of 10,000m2. At last count there were 15 employees.

The timber section will be extended in the next 12 months to accommodate more housing in the surrounding areas

A new store was built three and half years ago on the original site to accommodate this rapid business growth, and the result is a complex that is strategically placed to service massive local construction projects. Forecasters anticipate the release of 10,000 residential blocks onto the market in the next five years.

Staying ahead of the pack, according to (Sam) Noiosi, necessitates constant change in recognition of new markets and needs. “When I started out I knew absolutely nothing and operated out of a store of about 30–40m2,” he says.

“Because the area was mainly surrounded by farms I stocked a lot of products like irrigation, fertilisers, hay, bulk food and the kinds of things primary producers needed. Then, about 10 years on, I moved more into supplying sand and soil and other building materials in response to all the construction work that was going on.”

Today the store’s dominant departments are cement, sand and soil, timber, concrete, paint, plumbing and power tools. Growth areas include garden and landscape supplies.

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About a decade ago the store joined John Danks & Son as a Thrifty-Link outlet. Later it was branded under the Home banner as turnover warranted larger stock levels. “Our store is a member of the Home Timber and Hardware Group,” he says.

Garden and landscape supplies have experienced increased sales at the store

“We are also a member of the Danks Trade Group which helps members enjoy the best buying available to independent hardware stores, especially in plumbing. Being part of Home Timber and Hardware is the most cost-effective way to create new customers and keep my existing customers, whilst ensuring I build profitability in my store every day. The most important reason I am a member of the Home Timber and Hardware Group is because they are completely flexible to my needs and they listen to my problems and react quickly to address them.”

Flexibility and change, as already mentioned, are key to Noiosi’s past and future business plans. “We are always changing our store,” he explains. “We have had several changes to our original layout to reflect our ever changing business, and have grown our plumbing, paint, power tool and garden offers.

“Other changes have been made to accommodate the increased building range in our trade section. We have extended all our fixtures to the taller 2.1 fixtures and we have concentrated our merchandising to enhance our impulse sales. We have also looked at our ranges (currently 25,000 line items) and ensured our offer reflects our customers’ needs.

“We still want to improve and we have new plans to grow our business even more in the future. In the next 12 months we intend to extend our timber section as more housing is realised in our surrounding areas.”

While West Hoxton Hardware & Produce is in a constant state of change in pursuit of never-ending improvements, Noiosi says one aspect of the business remains constant: one-to-one customer service. “The customer is always right,” he declares.

“We try to listen to our customers’ needs better than other stores, and then make sure our store provides these needs to our customers every day. We strive to ensure our merchandising mix is superior and our pricing strategies reflect real value to our shoppers, every day. Delivering a superior offer with great customer service is what we aim for and we think that is what our customers really value and want.”

This is reflected in a policy of deliberate overstocking of products, as well as maintenance of a seven-day delivery service through a fleet of five trucks.

Today the store enjoys a reputation throughout metropolitan Sydney for its consistent attention to detail and service — a consistency founded on change and adaptation to prevailing market conditions. If there is one major lesson that other retailers might follow, it is that stores must move forwards to avoid sliding backwards.

Story by John Power