Profile: Cowdroy – Right on Track
When is an advertising agency not an advertising agency? When it is a major player in the hardware industry. Pauline Hoogen looks at the development of Cowdroy…
H M Cowdroy, the company, began way back in 1890 as an advertising agency. Today it is an industry-leading supplier of sliding door and window tracks, door furniture, weather seals and shop fitting products including display cabinets, shelving and racking. Few companies can boast a history of trading for 125 years, spanning three centuries. The company stayed in the Cowdroy family for three generations until the 1990s when Cowdroy became part of the Alchin & Long Group. The Alchin & Long Group is a proudly Australian-owned business that is committed to supporting Cowdroy’s unique position in the industry. Darren Greentree, who joined Cowdroy as its General Manager earlier this year, supports this position and reiterated that: “the Cowdroy brand is synonymous with quality, reliability and customer service and I intend to build on these strengths over the coming years”. The company was initially known as H M Cowdroy but the initials of the founder are no longer referred to, and it is now known as Cowdroy, a name that has a well-deserved reputation in the industry, synonymous with quality, service and reliability.
Clearly innovators, there have been many ‘firsts’ at Cowdroy. In its infancy, it was the first advertising agency to place an illustrated advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald. The most significant ‘first’ for H M Cowdroy happened when it became the first company to produce a sliding glass aluminium track. This invention completely changed the direction of the company and put it on the fast track to leadership in the Australian hardware industry. Cowdroy’s other major inventions include the highly successful, ball bearing sliding glass track, a sashless sliding window and a sliding door track system, featuring ball bearings on a top race section, which was patented and sold under manufacturing licence around the world.
New Division is Born
The development of the Starline Showcase was another significant achievement, contributing to shape the company. This innovative aluminium and glass design was really ahead of its time and represented a major breakthrough, which proved to be an instant success in the shop fitting market. As a direct result of the success of the Starline Showcase, Cowdroys decided to create a special division, within the company, to manufacture and supply products specifically to service the shop fitting industry. This division continues to service the market today and is renowned for its high quality, customisation and design stability. When it comes to shop fitting products, there is a host of options from which to choose, but the catch cry at Cowdroy is that they ‘specialise in specialising’. Over 90 per cent of their shop fitting products are custom made. They work with their customers to help them design display cases and other shop fittings that will perfectly express the personality of the store, at the same time as maximising the use of available floor space. Cowdroy doesn’t profess to be a volume supplier in the shop fitting industry but it does enjoy a real niche, particularly with its high quality showcases. You tell them what you want and they will build it for you, to a standard of quality that is unsurpassed.
Another highly successful product for Cowdroy is its range of “Shelvit” shelving options. The Shelvit shelving system is one of the most popular do-it-yourself shelving systems in Australia and is suitable for domestic, commercial, office or shop fitting applications. The system is basically comprised of stripping, brackets, shelf rests and shelves and is designed for simple installation and use. It allows you to easily install shelving that is perfect for your requirements. Apart from its extensive range of sliding window, cabinet and door tracks, Cowdroy is also in the door furniture business, having a range of door products, which suit the home or the office. These products include doorstops, pulls and latches, cavity door latches and locks, security & patio door locks and hinges. Business Growth
As the company and its divisions grew, they operated out of two premises, separated by some distance. In 1984, almost 100 years since the company began, it moved to much larger premises on a 1.4-hectare site at Smithfield in Sydney. This is the hub of Cowdroy’s business and also contains its manufacturing plant. The move was in response to the enormous growth in business and technological expansion. This transfer into a new, single facility, ensured a much tighter rein on the business and its operations, allowing the company to do what it does best. The focus at Cowdroy has always been to innovate and create exciting new products. “It’s not enough to keep up with the market to be successful, you need to be ahead of it,” said Darren. Independent design, research and development of new products has kept Cowdroy at the forefront of the industry. The business is very focused and has two distinct divisions – one for hardware and one for shop fitting. This enables each business division to concentrate on their market without distraction.
Employing approximately 90 staff, Cowdroy has showrooms in most capital cities around Australia, has a joint venture operation in New Zealand and an agent in Singapore. A fair proportion of the staff it employs work in sales representative roles. Cowdroy prides itself on its relationship with its customers and works hard to service them. Cowdroy reps have a regular store visit routine, where they undertake training on product knowledge and offer a re-order system to their customers to ensure they are carrying the appropriate level of stock to meet the needs of their business. “Some might describe Cowdroy as a high service business model and rightly so. The high quality of our products and high service levels are the cornerstone of Cowdroy’s success and it’s something we will never compromise on,” Darren said.
Joining the Alchin & Long Group (ALG) has really strengthened the position of the company. “ALG is made up of several, traditional Australian companies and its owners agree that it is vital to keep reinvesting in these businesses to develop them and protect their valuable reputations,” Darren explained.
Another recent addition to Cowdroy’s stable of products is their range of window and door weather seals. With their already well-established reputation for quality and strong customer relationships, Cowdroy is able to leverage off these strengths when introducing new products to market. “We really are a one-stop shop for our customers in our chosen market segments. The success of the Weather Seal range has far exceeded our expectations with the take up of these products being very strong thanks to our loyal customer base,” Darren added.
When quizzed about any new product developments in the pipeline, Darren was circumspect. “We place a great emphasis on innovative product development and through the cycle of research and development, there are a lot of products we look at,” he said. One thing is certain however, any product bearing the Cowdroy brand name will undoubtedly be of the highest quality, and is sure to add to the success of this great Australian company.