Crameri’s Mitre 10 built for prosperity

by | Mar 17, 2022


Bernie Crameri (Owner), Bob Arnold (Store Manager), Stewart Crameri (Operations Manager) Dan Regan (Administration Manager) and James Crameri have worked well together to evolve the store over many decades.

Business: Crameri’s Mitre 10
Owners: Bernie & Stewart Crameri
Location: Maryborough, VIC
Buying Group: Independent Hardware Group (IHG)

When Elias Crameri first established the Crameri’s business in country Victoria in 1878 – upon arriving from Switzerland – he never could have guessed that 144 years on the thriving regional business would expand its operations to the inner-city suburb of South Melbourne.

The family’s long-standing Maryborough store, Crameri’s Mitre 10, is located 170 kilometres northwest of Melbourne, today owned and run by Bernie Crameri and son Stewart who work tirelessly to create the best possible in-store experience for their customers. The store now prospers as a multi-faceted family business, built on outstanding customer service as well as a wide range of hardware, DIY, trade and rural lines, with bicycle parts and a liquor licence recently added to its list of outstanding qualities. 

The business’ long-running success prompted the family to take on a new metro venture with the recent purchase of a small-format hardware store in South Melbourne.

Looking at the Maryborough store today, it is hard to imagine that the business was born from its humble beginnings as a wood-cutting, chaff-milling and merchant business, with a touch of gold-mining thrown in as this was the reason why the store was originally established in Maryborough.

The business has seen many generations involved in the business. Elias’ son, Joseph Crameri, took over from his father in 1948, his son Elias (Leo) took charge in the 1960s, and current owner Bernie started with the business in 1975. It was about three years ago when Bernie’s son Stewart came on board finding his way back to the business after playing professional football for many years.

Stewart’s wife Jesse and Bernie’s wife Mandy also remain an integral part of the business, while Bernie’s brother James manages the business’ nearby factory that continues to manufacture chaff to this day and supply produce stores throughout Melbourne.

Today the business still features many of its original attributes including the chaffer’s factory and the original family home, a five-bedroom, two-story terrace house, located beside the Maryborough store.

Business evolvement

Crameri’s Mitre 10 evolved substantially in 2016 after it undertook a total re-lay and review of its range and offer. 

While Crameri’s Mitre 10 has always primarily been a rural business, several years ago a 15-year drought hit the region and affected the business for a long time. It was then that Bernie and Stewart decided it was time to future-proof the business by leaning on the support and resources of a hardware banner group. In November 2006 the family joined Home Timber & Hardware and their hardware journey began.

The store evolved substantially once again in 2016, rebranding to Mitre 10 under the group’s Sapphire transformation program and undertaking a total re-lay and review of its range and offer. 

However, the renovations did not stop there with another significant upgrade to the store’s trade centre completed during the COVID pandemic when Stewart saw a need in the local market for a more professional offer within the timber/trade space. 

According to Stewart, it was time for the timber/trade centre to work as one so the businesses would complement each other instead of working as two separate entities.

“As soon as I began working back at the store three years ago, we identified that the timber/trade business was not doing as well as it should. Although it took us over two years to get the plans underway for a new trade centre to be built, it was all completed about 10 months ago and now looks incredible,” he said.

Trade centre upgrade

Although Bernie and Stewart faced some decent challenges while building the new trade centre throughout the pandemic, Stewart said the timing worked out quite well because most of the centre’s redevelopments took place in-between lockdowns.

“After the first lockdown came to an end last year we quickly sprang into action and undertook the re-lay before the second wave came. Although the timing of the redevelopment worked out well it was 12 months of hard work as we had to work through two planning permits, two building permits, and two years of VCAT. Bernie had five operations and I also welcomed my second baby into the world – it was a very busy time to say the least,” he said.

“There was also the issue of navigating staffing issues throughout the lockdowns, because there was such an increase in trade combined with staff needing to isolate. Somehow, we managed to put on 15 staff throughout this time as well as deal with everything else,” Stewart said.

Once completed the new trade centre included a full extension and replacement of the former shed, a convenient drive-through area, as well as a re-lay to half of the store.

“Our biggest challenge was making sure that all of the stock within the new shed flowed really well and that our customers found it easy to access everything they needed so they could be in and out as quickly as possible. We are so proud of this achievement. Although our staff were hesitant on the extensive changes at first, they now love it and are enjoying working within the new centre,” he said.

Already the new-look trade centre has changed the store’s customer ratio from 90 per cent retail and ten per cent trade, to 60 per cent retail and 40 per cent trade, as local builders and construction contractors see the 3500 square metre store as their ‘go-to’ for all of their supply needs.

Mighty Rewards Program

As a strong believer in the benefits of the Mitre 10 ‘Mighty Rewards’ loyalty program, Crameri’s Mitre 10 now has 86 per cent of Maryborough residents signed up as members to the program. The team also continue to trial new ways to expand the program including Bernie and Stewart’s latest promotion that targets farmers via the store’s Combined Rural Traders (CRT) business.

Using a 12-month planner to drive supplier-funded Mighty Rewards campaigns throughout the year, the store’s extensive planning and marketing campaigns continue to be a huge success.

“We will now introduce this program to our local farmers so they can use this within the rural side of the business. It seems the younger farmers are happy to take this on and buy their merchandise through us so they can utilise the Mighty Rewards program. When a customer spends through Mighty Rewards, they accumulate three per cent of the total amount through the program which goes towards discounting their next purchase in-store. Mitre 10 is also running a promotion where one loyalty customer can win one million bonus points as well as weekly and daily prizes which is fantastic at driving interest in the program,” Bernie said.

Local demographics

The town of Maryborough continues to experience a boom with many people from Melbourne moving to the area since the pandemic. Bernie also believes that the re-vamped store will hold the business in good stead as the town’s population continues to swell.

“Once you have been in business for a long time and set your business up properly through the Sapphire experience, it attracts people to the store. IHG have assisted us in setting everything up really well, including our stock, staff and pricing. We have many competitors in this area so we are really appreciative that we can lean on the national resources of IHG to help us continually grow and evolve,” Bernie said.

Since the Sapphire upgrade, the store has tapped into servicing large building contractors working at the local hospital and art gallery, according to Stewart.

“The bigger contractors all come to us first because they know the brand and they want to be looked after with the pricing. They want to do business with people who can give them the right paperwork and all make it work seamlessly for them,” Stewart said.

When asked what Bernie believes makes the store stand out from its competitors, he said this is a question he asks himself on a daily basis.

“During a recent staff meeting I said the number one thing you need to do when a customer walks into the store is put your hand up and say hello. This is the one thing we have cemented into the store’s culture for the last 50-years – just say hello to customers. Customer service and the customer’s experience in-store are equally as important. This combined with our ‘shopper led’ range and pricing allows us to remain highly competitive,” he said.

“What has happened throughout the COVID period is a lot of customers who would usually go to Bunnings reverted to their local Mitre 10 store and once they re-visited the store, they realised just how competitive we were, and how much they enjoyed the experience.” 

“We cannot rest on our laurels though and we always need to make sure that the store is tidy and neat and the range is constantly up to date. If we get these things right on a daily basis then we are doing well,” Bernie added.

Inner-city convenience offer

While IHG has remained instrumental in supporting Crameri’s Mitre 10 from when it first joined a banner group right through to the store’s Sapphire upgrade, Stewart said IHG’s support has also been crucial as they take on a new small-format hardware venture in the thriving inner-city suburb of South Melbourne.

“Being a part of the IHG group is like having 40 extra staff because you have access to a big support team and they just help you the whole time. Having this support makes such a big difference as we take on the South Melbourne convenience store and we are considering developing more stores in the future because we have IHG’s backing. Thankfully we have continued to trade within our convenience offer since purchasing the store from the former owners. We are just slowly transitioning a few things but the big re-lay will happen at the beginning of March when we brand it to Mitre 10 and transform the customer offer,” Bernie said.

Hardware convenience stores are the way of the future, according to Bernie, with his goal being to run the South Melbourne business remotely via cutting-edge software programs.

“At the moment the store is an experiment for us and IHG, but together we believe we can do it because it is a part of the hardware sector that has such potential. Incredibly the store has already been around for 23 years and the former owners are very well known to the local community because of their outstanding service,” he said.

“The store will focus predominantly on local DIYers – those living in apartments, smaller houses nearby and the local hotels and restaurants – while also having a small trade offer,” Bernie said.

Although the South Melbourne convenience store will offer primarily hardware products, Stewart said the store will feature a variety of top-ups for trades as well. 

“If a builder is working nearby and they are short of a few products the South Melbourne store will offer a selection of extra products for trades as well as maintenance products required by local hotels.”

Crameri’s Mitre 10 owner, Bernie Crameri believes customers are naturally attracted to the store now that the business is set up properly through the Sapphire upgrade program.

“When driving around Melbourne I have already noticed there are a lot of metro Woolworths stores on the city corners. It is almost like we have gone back in time except where milk bars once were we have metro stores, just with a better range and pricing – this is also why we want to create the same offer with Mitre 10 stores. It is an exciting initiative and we are confident it will be a great fit in the area,” Stewart said.

Future plans

It has already been an exciting year for Crameri’s Mitre 10 Maryborough after being awarded IHG’s Store of the Year for the VIC/TAS region and is now in the running for national recognition, to be announced mid-March. Bernie said for him and his son it is not about winning awards but more about growing a business that evolves with its customers and will continue to stand the test of time.

A draft concept of what the family’s new small-format store will look like opening in 2022 and located on South Melbourne’s busy Coventry Street.

“While I know we are going pretty well it is also such a morale boost for the staff when an award nomination comes up. We have an outstanding team behind us who help to make the business what it is today. Just some of this team includes our Hardware Manager Bob Arnold, Weekend Manager Julie Albins, along with Administration Manager Dan Regan. Throughout the store our team is outstanding with Howard Payne, Elise Thornton and Katrina Lee in the garden, Jesse Grogan in paint, Paula Gabriel in hardware and Andrew Hubble and Paul Rossi who manage our timber yard. We are a ‘people business’ first and foremost,” he said.

“Most of the time it is those one per cent improvements that make a big difference when it comes to growing the business, and these people all play a key role in our growth. It is so fantastic telling staff we have won a state award and to be nominated for a national award means everything we are doing in-store is right up there – which is what we will continue to do for many years to come,” Bernie said.