The Ascendancy of Farinosi

Farinosi & Sons has been a retailing feature of inner-suburban Perth for 70 years – which makes the family-run business “hardware nobility” in our books…

_____________________________________
Store: Farinosi & Sons Mitre 10, Perth, WA
Owners: Farinosi family
Group: Mitre 10
_____________________________________

There is an old Italian saying: “You never know till you have tried.” And experimentation has certainly been a feature of the third-generation, family-owned Farinosi & Sons Mitre 10 store, based in the central Perth suburb of Northbridge, WA. From humble beginnings in 1926 – when Amedeo Farinosi arrived in Australia with his wife Ersilia and their baby Tony – to the modern business that exists today, there have been numerous stepping stones and detours…from rabbit trapping, sawmilling and the establishment (and sale) of a transport company, to the creation of a second store in northern WA, as well as many years of giftware wholesaling and retailing. The common link is that the family has always been based in James Street, Northbridge; and since 1937 they have played a continuous role in the supply of materials to the construction and building industries of Perth (and even farming and agricultural industries in years gone by!).

Abruzzi to Northbridge
It’s a rich and diverse family history of hard work, culminating in a Perth store that has won the loyalty of a large trade-based clientele.

Caption: Paul Farinosi, Martin Ferguson and Mary KellyAHJRetail04Oct05

Soon after arriving in Australia from Abruzzi, Italy, and with the family growing to include Angelina, Duilio (“Snow”) and Eric, Amedeo trapped rabbits and tried his hand at odd jobs before purchasing a truck and starting a sawmill in James Street in 1937. Business blossomed and soon the sawmill site was being used to sell general produce. A yard was then established at new premises further along James Street, leading to the formation of a more hardware-style business by the late 1940s. A transport company, set up in 1949 and sold in the late 1960s, operated in tandem with this retail operation.

Amedeo died in 1963, leaving the day-to-day running of the business to his sons, but the company’s evolution remained energetic: in 1978 the Farinosi family opened another store in Karratha (refitted in April this year as a Handy store), and, until about eight years ago, the business also functioned as the exclusive WA distributor of Bohemia Crystal and related giftware items, supplying outlets including mainstream department stores such as Myer.

All three sons went on to work for the company: Tony remains Managing Director; Eric passed away last year, while “Snow”, sadly, has been in a coma for the last decade.

“Love What I Do…”
Northbridge Store Manager, Tony’s son Paul Farinosi, says he is as passionate about the business today as he was when, as a young child, he liked to play in the store. “I love what I do and I love where I do it,” he says – and who wouldn’t? The store is walking distance from the CBD and has a solid customer base. Paul estimates that about 70% of business is with trade clients, though cash custom is an important and valued part of the operation.

AHJRetail02Oct05Caption: Farinosi & Sons, in James Street, Northbridge

One of the main assets of the business is its size, which is particularly notable in an inner-city location. With an undercover store measuring 3,652m2 in area, complemented by a 645m2 timber yard/parking area, there is ample space for a commercial 90m drive-thru service. These facilities, combined with ongoing in-store design and refitting developments, have allowed the business to compete effectively against various regional competitors.

“We are always thinking of ways to improve the way we do things,” says Paul, adding that more refined display and merchandising techniques are achieved with input from all staff.

“We’ve tried to introduce stores within a store; we revamped the paint department about six months ago and stock all the major brands, but now you see the full Accent range straight away and there’s a full TV-video combo at the back – sales have picked up 15% over winter and 20% in the last six months.”

Caption: The Outdoor Living area is well-stocked and colourfulAHJRetail03Oct05

Other improvements include enhancements to the outdoor section, complete with functional and dynamic Waterwerks displays; the creation of a bright Makita-inspired Power Tools section; and shelving refits in accordance with Mitre 10 Generation 21 principles. Main departments are Hand Tools, Fastenings, Power Tools, Outdoor (not green life), Cement & Putties (which Paul says is “huge”), and Fibre Cement Sheeting. Paint is also burgeoning. Separate departments have their own “space”, complete with oversized visual displays that reinforce the identity of individual zones without compromising the “open and flowing” floorplan.

Long-term Staff
But the main “point of difference” between Farinosi & Sons and other stores, Paul explains, is the expertise of the staff (20 at the Perth store, another six in Karratha).

AHJRetail04Oct05Caption: Mary Kelly, Angie Vellutini and Paul Farinosi

“Mary Kelly works in our office and has been with us for 35 years,” says Paul. “Vince Algeri has been with us for 26 years, and Martin Ferguson – a former glazier – has been here nine years. And we can’t forget Andy Nelson, Manager of the Karratha store, who has been with us since last year. He used to work as a regional area manager for Mitre 10 before moving to Stanley Australia, and helped us set the Karratha store five years ago.”

Paul says he hopes to capitalise on the strength of Mitre 10’s Trade Express name in future branding initiatives, and is otherwise satisfied that the business is working to its potential as a major provider of materials to the Perth community. “Like any store we need to do genuine specials, but we don’t forget what got us here in the first place: great staff and service over many years.”

By John Power