Retail Focus: In The Pink

In today’s business climate, few family businesses can boast a record of 145 years and six generations of trading and employing people from the local community. Pauline Hoogen reports on the remarkable Pink family…

Store: Pink’s Mitre 10 Handy
Owners: The Pink Family
Group: Mitre 10

In 1861, Thomas Pink Snr saw potential in Clare, a small town about 135 kms north of Adelaide, in the heart of South Australia’s famous wine growing region, and opened a Chaff Mill. The business provided produce and hardware to the district as well as operating as a grain agency.

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Since these humble beginnings the business has undergone many changes and withstood the tests of time. All while remaining under the care of the Pink family.

Each generation has added their own particular flair to the business and it has continued to grow and flourish. In 1971, Wayne Pink (fifth generation) took the helm and was subjected to a “baptism of fire”, literally. Disaster struck in June, 1971, when the business premises was burnt to the ground. Fortunately, with access to another building within the town, which had previously housed the business, and a lot of hard work by family, staff and the community, the store recommenced trading within weeks.

Initially trading under the Homestead Hardware banner, Wayne made the decision in 1974 to join the Mitre 10 Group. Mitre 10 was relatively new to South Australia and Pink’s was one of the first hardware stores to join the group. They remain Mitre 10 South Australia’s longest serving member store.

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The Pinks store is well designed and stocked

Over the years, Wayne became very involved with Mitre 10 (SA) Ltd and held numerous positions within the group including a stint as Chairman of the board in 1981 and 1982.

Disaster struck again in 1974 when the banks of the Hutt River burst, flooding and devastating the Clare township. Pinks Mitre 10 did not escape unscathed, but after rolling up their sleeves and cleaning the place up, it was business as usual after a short time.

Enter the Sixth Generation
Wayne, and his wife Rosslyn, continued to work together and build up their business and in 1986 their eldest son, Greg, joined them. Their youngest son, Nicholas, started in 1988, making this a real family business with fifth and sixth generation Pinks working together.

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The Pinks Mitre 10 Handy in Clare, SA

During 1988 a new site became available and the decision was made to develop it into the first “Flagship” store for Mitre 10 in South Australia. The store set a benchmark for hardware retailing and helped strengthen its relationship with Mitre 10, something the family is very proud of. This concept remained fresh enough to continue for 17 years.

Unfortunately, the Pink family has not been spared the highs and lows of business, and the economy. Nicholas is very proud of the way his parents worked long and hard through “the recession we had to have” to ensure the future of the store and its loyal and hardworking staff – all of whom remained with the store during this time.

With Wayne and Rosslyn’s decision to retire in 2004, they left sons, Greg and Nicholas, to continue on in the business.

The association between the Pink’s and the Mitre 10 group has proven to be a long and very successful one, with Pink’s undergoing the conversion to the Generation 21 Handy format last year. “The conversion to the Handy format has given the store a new lease on life. It has really opened it up and made it a much brighter store with less bulky signage,” Nicholas explained. “The store layout was the most significant change.”

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L-R: Melanie Pink, Greg Pink, Nick holding baby, Sophie, and Belinda holding Ella

When asked to single out the most important factor contributing to the success of their business, without hesitation Nicholas said customer service. “It’s all about the customer – something my father and his father made important. We should give what we expect and serve our customers how we expect to be served in other stores.”

The store employs a staff of ten, including the newly appointed Retail Manager, Geoff Biggs. Geoff joined the store in August, 2005, during the Mitre 10 Handy transformation. Geoff and his family moved to Clare from Adelaide with the intention of making regular visits to the city. After settling in, they really enjoyed being part of a small yet vibrant town that is filled with such community spirit, and they have subsequently lost that urge to travel to Adelaide very often. “Having Geoff means we can concentrate on managing the business rather than the business managing us,” said Greg.

Community Spirit
In a small town, community involvement is essential, and something Pink’s Mitre 10 Handy has always supported. Being a business in a small town for as long as it has, it is inevitable that they have become closely connected to community organisations, such as schools, local sporting clubs, service clubs and other organisations in Clare and its surrounding district. The Pinks have appreciated the reverse as well, as the support they received in the past from the local community helped them get back on their feet after the fire and flood.

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The paint department

Clare has a population of 3,500 people and the surrounding district has a catchment of around 8,000. When it comes to competition their situation is unique, with the local Home store practically next door. There are also a couple of rural supply stores and an irrigation store which sells hardware items. Clare also has a Woolworths and a Cheap as Chips store who sell a bit of everything. “We have healthy competition and with Home Hardware so close, it is easy for our customers to compare products and prices. We are happy about it and if competition keeps us on our toes then everyone benefits,” Nicholas said.

The store also boasts the inclusion of Solver and Wattyl Paints Trade Depots as well as Valvoline Oils, which strengthens their market share and provides a diverse product range. Industries in the region range from sheep and grain farming to manufacturing and wine making – all of which Pink’s continue to service.

Award Winning Performance
With the store now in its 15th decade of trading, they must be doing something right. The store has won recognition over the years, most recently as HASA Store of the Year in 2003. Mitre 10 has also presented the store with Store of the Year Awards over three consecutive years from 1995 to 1997. The Clare and Gilbert Valleys Council presented Pink’s Mitre 10 Handy with the Most Improved Business at the Clare Council Australia Day Awards in 2006.

The future looks bright, and over time we will undoubtedly see more changes in both Mitre 10 and Pink’s Mitre 10 Handy.

With Greg and Nicholas both having their own families, the possibility of a seventh generation and a continuation of this remarkable tradition is foreseeable. Greg and his wife Melanie, who works in the store, have a six year old daughter, Caitlin, and four year old son, Ben. Nicholas and his wife, Belinda, have just celebrated the birth of twin girls, Ella and Sophie. Both Greg and Nicholas would like to see the business remain in the family for generations to come.