All Roads Lead to Roma Mitre 10
Set in the small town of Roma, Queensland, the Garvie family’s new Mitre 10 Home & Trade store is a tonic for the local farming community…
Store: Miscamble Bros Mitre 10 Home & Trade, Qld
Owners: Bruce & Lyn Garvie
Group: Mitre 10
The town of Roma – population 6,500, located 500kms west of Brisbane – is an agricultural and industrial heartland where the term “hardware” has its own meaning. Think of bulk fertilisers, animal health products and heavy-duty rural implements, and you’ll get some idea of the products most Roma residents associate with their local hardware store.
Recently the Garvie family renovated their long-standing Miscamble Bros Mitre 10 hardware store, renaming the expanded business as a Mitre 10 Home & Trade outlet. The Garvie family bought the business in 1983 from descendents of the store’s founder, Wilson Miscamble. Wilson began the business in 1883 as a coach builder, slowly transforming the venture over the years into a traditional retail hardware store. When the Garvies bought the business they were delighted to retain the century-old Miscamble name as one of the region’s most respected community icons.
These days the 5,000m2 operation is a significant player in the town’s economy, employing 30 people and making a contribution to the building development of the area.
No two Mitre 10 stores are the same, and the Miscamble Bros outlet has been tailored to address its unique demographic profile and small population. It’s a busy town with high exposure to the oil and gas industries, crop and animal farm businesses, as well as building enterprises. According to General Manager Justin Garvie, the store layout and product selection reflect these diverse client bases. There are four main business units with their own senior managers: Greg Hewitt looks after Rural Sales, Greg Oakman supervises Heavy Hardware, Marg Collier is Retail Manager and Linda McEwan handles Administration. In addition, the business has its own Makita shop with a strong selection of power equipment, and there is even a qualified Rural Merchandise manager, Katie McLean, who oversees the store’s pet shop and animal-related supplies – though the tag “pet shop” underplays the department’s role as a provider of important commercial animal products: there are laying and meat chickens, birds, ducks, even hermit crabs and a fish aquarium!
The customer sector breakdown is as follows: Building 30%, Rural 30%, Oil and Gas 20%, and Consumer 20%. The mixed clientele means the store has to carry up to 70,000 SKUs to satisfy niche market demands. The Oil and Gas industry, for example, has its own unique requirements. “They need a lot of day-to-day goods,” Justin explains, “but they may also need some heavier items. And they may also need more common items but in larger quantities, like 20 nine-litre water bottles at a time.”
Spread Your Eggs
i>Caption: Makita has obviously worked closely with the store to create a top display
Justin says the main lesson his family has learned over the years is to diversify the trading platform. Like most rural economies, local fortunes are largely dependent on favourable weather conditions, and a period of drought affects all business sectors. Three years ago the steel/industrial supplies component of the hardware store was removed and re-established as a separate business on its own site. Justin says the family has also started separate businesses devoted to glass/aluminium, rural products and textiles/clothing (two stores).
Diverse businesses, of course, have their own significant staffing challenges, particularly in small towns with limited employee resources. Businesses are nothing without top people. Justin says the hardware store has evolved its own culture – a community within the township – that recognises the value and loyalty of employees. All staff, Justin says, deserve respect and recognition, as well as the opportunity to enjoy personal and professional growth as long-term members of the team. Staff enjoy discounts at all Garvie family businesses, including the clothing stores, and incentives to sell selected hard-to-sell items; cash or prizes help encourage a bit of competition between staff. Group harmony is encouraged through Friday night drinks – employees’ families welcome – while a footy tipping competition serves to promote healthy rivalry. The staff also run a well-organised social club that has weekly raffles, along with several outings throughout the year. “We also encourage training for those staff who want to learn more,” Justin says. “A Certificate of Retailing acknowledges expertise and people can say they have done some form of training, which is great for everyone involved. Our senior staff have been loyal, and through this we have found many have been here longer than 15 years.”
Change or Go Backwards
Indeed, change and growth are fundamental to the whole operation’s success. Miscamble Bros was one of the first privately owned retailers in Queensland to introduce barcoding (soon after the Garvies purchased the business), and the new Home & Trade renovation utilises the latest strategic layout and presentation techniques to maximise customer loyalty and ease of movement. The pet shop, for instance, was moved from the front of the store to the rear during the refit to offer greater exposure to more staple lines.
Technology is another aspect of the store that is being reviewed to make it as current as possible, though the relative paucity of IT professionals in the town limits sophistication levels. One thing is for sure, says Justin: “You can never become complacent. Always keep moving.”
By John Power