Customer service key to Gasweld’s success
A strong focus on providing customers with genuine tooling solutions for their specific needs is a key factor in the continuing success of Gasweld Tools. Hartley Henderson writes.
Store name: Gasweld Tool Centre
Store owners: Neil and Marilyn Dunning
Buying group: Gasweld
Established in 1978, Gasweld’s owners, Neil and Marilyn Dunning, set out to fill an identified void of specialist gas and welding suppliers in the Newcastle and greater Hunter Region in NSW.
After the first store was opened in a small building in the Newcastle suburb of Carrington, the company premises were shifted to Lambton in 1979. Later, from knowledge gained as a mechanical engineer at BHP, Neil established his own brand of tools in the mid-1980s, known as ‘Toolex’, which has developed into a highly successful part of the business.
The company has now grown to 16 stores across NSW, South Australia, Victoria and the ACT – with plans for further expansion. In relation to the overall structure, half of the stores across the business are company owned, while the other half is partner stores.
Based on substantial experience and strong product knowledge, Gasweld specialist tool centres have become known as tool experts, providing solutions for customer needs. Gasweld is a family owned and operated business; Neil and Marilyn remain the company’s Managing Directors and are still actively involved in the day-to-day operations. Their son, Brent, took over as General Manager in 2011 and has overseen Gasweld’s significant development and expansion in recent years.
Brent says the company is enjoying a hugely successful period and that the online store in particular has grown exponentially over the last couple of years and has played an integral role in the business’s continued success.
“In 2018 we celebrated 40 years since our first store opened in Newcastle, and that longevity comes from a combination of providing customers with genuine tooling solutions along with excellent service,” Brent told the Australian Hardware Journal.
“Our success has been built on our superior product knowledge, support, and the advice that we are able to provide to our customers. We are also proud of the intimate relationships we have built with our customers over the years and our ability to develop an understanding of their individual needs. A core focus of our business is to provide solutions for our customers and not just sell them another tool – that’s critical.”
“A lot of emphasis is placed on employing staff with the right knowledge and experience. Many of Gasweld’s staff have experience in the trades and all employees are given extensive product training to keep up-to-date with the latest developments and industry standards. We genuinely believe that our staff are our biggest asset and we like to think that we have some of the most genuine and hard-working salespeople in the industry.”
“We also believe that Gasweld’s key point of difference is the service provided. Our staff are equipped with the knowledge and experience to identify customers’ problems and provide a genuine solution. We strive to build relationships with all of our customers and ensure that they are getting the right tool for the job,” Brent said.
Brent points out that as a specialist tool supplier, Gasweld has a very diverse range of products in store which means that its customer base is quite broad.
“You would expect, a significant portion of our customers are tradesmen, including carpenters, plumbers, electricians, welders, concreters, and metal fabricators. But we also have plenty of DIY and ‘weekend warrior’ customers, as well as those looking for a higher quality selection of tools and equipment,” he said.
“It is probably no surprise that we have a pretty strong range of welding gear and this is one of our most popular departments. Our knowledgeable staff are readily available to provide advice on utilising the most appropriate welding method and selecting the right equipment for individual customer projects.”
“Power tools is another strong area for us with drills, grinders, saws and nail guns particularly popular across our stores. We strive to offer a wide range of products from the best suppliers, providing both value and quality for our customers.”
In relation to effective marketing of the stores, Brent says Gasweld operates in a highly competitive environment, so marketing is an area that continues to grow in importance.
“We are investing more heavily in the digital space as e-commerce continues to grow, but we also utilise traditional forms of advertising as well,” he explained.
“It is important for us to continue to identify and nurture the right type of customers for our business and ensure we are providing them with the right message.”
Because the tools sector is such a competitive industry, Brent says there are always operational and business planning challenges to be faced due to the number of other retailers in the marketplace.
“E-commerce also presents a significant challenge as the market becomes more saturated with retailers with low costs and less overheads,” he said.
“However, the outlook is quite positive in regards to the industry as a whole. At the end of the day, there will always be a need for quality tools and accessories. But it’s up to us to continue to provide our customers with great service to ensure they keep coming back – that’s the key.”