Retail Focus: Booming In Bathurst

Not content to run a successful hardware store in Lithgow, Mike and Lisa Coates have opened another business in Bathurst. Pauline Hoogen reports…

Store: Bathurst Building Supplies
Owners: Michael and Lisa Coates
Group: HBT

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Business has been booming at Bathurst Building Supplies, since it opened for business in August last year, according to Managing Director, Mike Coates. Little wonder when you consider the pedigree of the four stakeholders in this dynamic business. Mike and his family own the very successful Coates Home Centre in Lithgow; Dave Kent who owns the equally successful Kent’s Building Supplies in Orange; Alan Hurford, Principal of Bathurst Plasterboard and Shane Denley, General Manager of Coates Home Centre. Put those guys together with Alan Thompson, Bathurst Building Supplies manager, and it is clear that their combined wealth of knowledge and experience in the hardware industry forms the foundation for what has proven to be a very successful business venture.

Dave Kent and Mike Coates had for some time been watching the Bathurst market with interest. “When my family and I moved to Bathurst three years ago I saw an opening in the building supplies market for a business dedicated to serving the trade customers with quality builders’ hardware and fix out materials,” explained Mike. “When the old 3,000 sq m David’s Holdings sheds became available, we knew we had the perfect site for the new business. It provides us with enough space to have all of our products under one roof, with ample room for our customers to load up in all weather conditions. The location is also very central and easily accessed from all areas around Bathurst. We are also very happy to be sharing our space with Bathurst Plasterboard, which gives our customers a one stop shop for their building materials.”

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Caption: The timber racks are under cover with ample parking space

As a member of Hardware & Building Traders (HBT), Bathurst Building Supplies is in a position to supply a comprehensive range of competitively priced timber and heavy building materials to tradespeople, owner-builders and serious renovators. While Bathurst Building Supplies is dedicated to serving the local building trades, they also welcome owner builders and renovators who are offered a Trade Saver card, which gives non-trade customers access to better pricing without having to haggle for it.

The Hardware & Building Traders (HBT) is a buying group set up in 1997 with 13 member stores in New South Wales. Today, the group has more than 180 stores operating throughout all the eastern States of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, ACT and Tasmania. The group was established as an alternative to other buying groups such as Danks and Mitre10. HBT has but one aim and that is to provide the lowest prices and increase store profit. Being a member of HBT costs nothing – there are no membership fees, marketing levies, catalogue costs. HBT’s stated objective is to foster a strong culture of support and co-operation between members, but restricts its formal role to that of a buying group and does not involve itself in marketing or other activities. Mike Coates and Dave Kent were among the founding members of HBT and currently sit on its executive committee. “The terrific thing about being part of HBT is that it gives you access to many store owners of like business and the valuable sharing of information and ideas without the interference of anyone presuming to know more about our business than we do,” Mike said.

With more than 180 member stores, HBT has trading arrangements with more than 200 national, state and local suppliers, which gives them great buying power, and its members reap the benefits without unnecessary levies eroding increased profit.

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Caption: The hardware section

Bathurst Building Supplies like to offer a friendly warning: they don’t sell deck chairs or barbeques. They just sell serious building supplies to serious tradies and renovators. The main aim of BBS is to provide an outstanding service to the Bathurst building trades with no distractions.You won’t have to line up behind DIY customers asking laborious questions or buying pots and pans. We will be there for you. “We fully understand that in the building game, time is money, and we try to make life easier for tradespeople, offering the best range, price and expert advice,” Mike added.

When Mike opened the business, Bathurst was already well serviced by general hardware stores such as a large Mitre10 and a huge Bunnings store – which cater to the DIY market. “There is a tremendous amount of building activity in the district and we believe we have found the perfect niche. I think they call it the ‘green change’ where people who are tired of living in the rat race of capital cities, want to escape to a country environment. Bathurst is large enough to cater to their needs in relation to amenities, but being a rural area it offers a peaceful lifestyle.” Mike said.

Bathurst Building Supplies trades five days a week, covering the usual tradesman’s hours from 7.00 am to 4.30 pm and, aside from the principals who are all involved in the business, only employs four full-time staff. Their customers are serious builders and renovators and their range includes timber framing and fix out materials, doors, fibre cement, builder’s hardware, power and hand tools and steel reinforcing products. The business is centrally located and easily accessible from all parts of the district. The expansive under cover premises offer ease of shopping in all weather conditions, with a drive-through, undercover pick up. BBS also provide a free twice-daily delivery in Bathurst.

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Caption: The Coates family L-R: Michael, Ashlie, Lisa and Alex

Mike’s excitement was hard to contain as he described the many features of the business that have combined to ensure its success. “We spent a long time researching and planning the business before we opened the doors, to make sure we got it right. Our site is perfect for our business, with plenty of parking around the building. There’s loads of room to unload delivery vehicles without inconveniencing our customers and best of all loads of undercover space for our customers to load up their vehicles.

“The timber racks have been cleverly designed to give us fast easy access to all of our timber products. Customers can pull up beside any of our products and load them straight onto their vehicle.

“The hardware department is well stocked and roomy. We try to keep plenty of stock on hand. One of the key customer frustrations we identified when planning our new business was that many business don’t carry enough stock for big jobs. We keep a pretty narrow range, but there is plenty of it. We made our counter area huge, as we wanted to have plenty of room to be able to service our customers without tripping over each other.

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Caption: The service counter at Bathurst Building Supplies

“Many customers bring their house plans into us so we can work out the quantity of materials needed for their project. Our builder’s room is unique I believe, and it is proving to be a real drawcard with the trades. The cosy room is set up with a meeting/lounge area and kitchenette. Our customers are welcome to drop in and make themselves a free cuppa any time of day.

“Some of our trade customers use the room as a meeting place where they can talk to their customers about a project, with easy access to products and information.

“Even our bulk timber supplies are kept undercover to ensure they arrive on site in perfect condition every time. We offer a fantastic delivery service, we have two trucks and two utes on site. We have had many comments from customers about how quickly we can get material on site which is something we take great pride in,” Mike enthused.

If building activity has slowed somewhat in metropolitan areas, the effects have not been felt in Bathurst. Mike says business is booming and even eclipsing his own high expectations. And he has this advice for independents – “For independent hardware businesses to remain viable, they have to understand their market, find their niche and work it.”