INDUSTRY INSIGHT Ms Welsh remains confident as the independent network continues to reinvest to further lift their overall store quality and competitiveness. “This year we have reached the milestone of 200 Sapphire stores. This is the ‘Best Store in Town’ program that delivers sales growth through a tailored range best suited to each store's unique location in the communities they serve. Our network of Sapphire standard stand-alone trade centres have also grown and we have several Design 10 showrooms open which offer a differentiated experience for builders and consumers,” Ms Welsh said. When talking market trends, the IHG group saw an increase in young shoppers come through their digital channels this year. Ms Welsh believes that this demonstrates the confidence consumers have for IHG’s brands online. “Our digital enablement programs have helped us determine how to improve the online experience not only in DIY, but also in how we bring more awareness to trade technology. We have got some exciting changes ahead as we look to grow the shopper experience across a new mix of digital channels.” This year the IHG group was also recognised for its innovation in safety when IHG member, K & B Mitre 10 received the Highly Commended Best Solution of a WHS Risk at the recent (National Safety Council of Australia) NSCA Foundation Awards. Ms Welsh said this Mitre 10 member has demonstrated exceptional commitment and dedication to promoting health and safety to their local communities. “Our people and member network contribute to our success and safety is a big part of our focus. TRIFR (Total Recordable Injury Frequency Rate) measures how frequently recordable injuries are occurring and our score this year sets the benchmark with the industry standards. We will be working to introduce more safety measures to ensure we are keeping our people safe.” The IHG Expo 2024 is set to take place at the Gold Coast Convention Centre and will go off the theme of ‘Stronger Together’, with the Expo seen as an important event that brings members, suppliers and teams together. “During our state meetings, we have spent time to understand what is important to our members and suppliers. We have spent the year providing investments in innovative programs that will future-proof their business. Our theme of ‘Stronger Together’ is a subset that spills into showing our members and suppliers how to leverage scale in all aspects to prepare for a thriving future,” Ms Welsh concluded. NTHA CEO, David Little In March this year, the Timber and Building Materials Association (TABMA) and Hardware Australia merged to become the National Timber and Hardware Association (NTHA), which, Chief Executive Officer, David Little says is their greatest achievement for the last 20 years. “Since the merger, we have been working with our new membership to properly understand the needs of this new group. Members from both sides of the merger have been universal in their support, both for the need to consolidate to build strength and the approach we have taken to date,” Mr Little said. “The combined membership – now almost 600 members across the country – has allowed us to revisit all Member Services with our new, much greater ‘buying power’. We will also be launching several Member Services, some already offered and a few new services in the first quarter of next year.” The merged NTHA now offers the government a genuine critical mass of businesses in this space – particularly independent, family-owned businesses. Mr Little says they look forward to representing members and getting the results they deserve. Despite industries facing challenges related to an increasing skilled trade shortage, Mr Little says that right now their hardware retailers are enjoying the spring/ summer uplift and though they are not at last year’s highs – they are not far off. “We are seeing a multi-speed economy through our membership, as those members are more exposed to the project home market and are more affected by what is a downturn in the detached residential space. The alteration and additions sector remains strong and building approvals suggest this will continue through next year,” Mr Little said. However, this year has not been without its challenges for the NTHA, particularly for its small to medium-sized member businesses. We have got some exciting changes ahead as we grow the shopper experience across a new mix of digital channels. Annette Welsh “ DECEMBER '23 | HARDWAREJOURNAL.COM.AU 19