HBT branding refreshes popular timber store
Mountain Timbers H Hardware & Building Supplies is a well-established trade business that has successfully operated in Melbourne’s outer-eastern suburbs since the 1970s.
Business: Mountain Timbers H Hardware & Building Supplies
Owners: Wayne and Lyn Greaves
Location: Kilsyth, VIC.
Buying group: Hardware & Building Traders (HBT)
While the business has grown and evolved over many years, one of its most successful changes came 18 months ago when Mountain Timbers H Hardware & Building Supplies fully re-branded to HBT’s H Hardware brand and the store’s exterior was transformed.
The decision did not come easily to Director, Wayne Greaves, who initially found it hard to relinquish the original Mountain Timbers brand which was well known throughout the local community.
“I did not realise how much of a difference the re-branding would make. I knew the store was looking a bit tired but when we conducted a survey with staff and customers on the re-branding, there was a bit of resistance. I was also hesitant because I did not want to lose our well-known logo, which featured a green mountain, because this has been with us forever,” Wayne said.
“When I spoke to another HBT member about my concerns he understood my hesitation in letting go of the original branding, but highlighted the much bigger picture for all concerned over a simple emotional attachment. Prior to the changes I was also concerned potential customers driving past the store may have questioned whether we were a retail store or a saw mill.”
“There is no question to passers-by that we do retail now and we have really expanded this market. Our retail sales are now up by around five per cent since the re-branding. The bright modern look has not only given the store a facelift but has also made the business more welcoming to local builders who probably would not have visited the store in the past,” he said.
First established as Shields Timber by the Shields family in the 1970’s, Mountain Timbers H Hardware & Building Supplies initially opened its doors as a flower and second hand goods business, before Wayne took over the business in April 1994 when it became Mountain Timbers.
Wayne already had extensive experience in the timber industry, beginning his career in wholesale timber and working for several different timber companies before purchasing the business.
Due to its 10,000 square metre block and semi-rural location, the store has always been a majority trade business, with most customers phoning or faxing orders for delivery in the early days.
Now boasting two main drive through sheds for internal and external timber, fixing, doors and a stock shed at the rear of the store, the business is well known for its wide range of timber and basic builder’s hardware.
“Our biggest sellers include pine framing, LVL smart frame, outdoor timber, decking, BGC cement sheet products and Newtech composite decking and claddings. We have seen a lot of growth as locals seem to spend plenty of money on increasingly popular outdoor areas. We are blessed with a lot of space but when we get too full of stock, we also do have the block next door for backup storage. If we know pine framing is hard to get, which happens from time to time, then we grab as much as we can and stock up,” he said.
With a retail mix of 85 per cent trade and 15 per cent DIY, Wayne believes stand out qualities of the store include building solid relationships with customers through the store’s sales representatives, support team and delivery drivers.
Advancing online presence
Wayne believes the store has expanded naturally over the years, beginning with the implementation of the store’s sales representatives several years ago, and more recently advancing the business online.
“We started off with only six staff but today the team has grown to 18. This is primarily due to introducing a sales representative around 12 years ago, and John has built his network to be a great following today. We introduced Jeff, our second sales representative around five years ago to complement our then Sales Manager Damien Quinney (now Manager) and between the three of them they bring in most of our sales. We then built up the number of staff on-site to support the need from that growth. Additional yard staff, transport and administration staff who seem to be in the right jobs working to their strengths also assists in business growth,” he said.
More recently the business expanded its online offering when a staff member volunteered to grow the store’s social media and website offering.
“We had already put a little bit of time into building our social media platform, but then one of our sales counter staff members, Selby, asked to help contribute to the online aspect of the business. Selby has now completely taken over this side of the business and built it to where it is today, including website, Instagram and Facebook,” Wayne said.
“Customers noticed our online presence straight away. From here we began developing an online store and when COVID-19 came about, we decided to ramp up this side of the business to cope better with the social distancing laws.”
“It took a long time to get it up and running, as we selected and prioritised the most important products. It is not a huge online store but it is growing and we have the right person here to do this,” Wayne said.
Although the store has made advancements online to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, Wayne said so far, the crisis has only grown sales for the business. He believes this growth is attributed to DIY and trade customers becoming frustrated with long wait times at local Bunnings stores, where strict rules on customer numbers in-store affects the usual flow.
“I think people may have become impatient and it seems there is a big overflow from this. Our store has all the same vital COVID-19 constraints, but our size and our personal service makes it less impacting, and more appealing especially when the customer needs to quickly duck in for a single item. Hopefully they have liked the experience and will continue to shop with us,” he said.
“Initially when the social distancing laws were implemented, we did ask customers to remain outside, but now we have an area inside where customers can come in and talk to us about what they need. There has definitely been an increase in both trade and DIY sales.”
“We are trying to carefully manage our stock during this time but this is a balancing act because some supplies are hard to source and prices are increasing also,” Wayne said.
Due to the pandemic, customers are now resorting to pre-ordering so the store can have everything ready for pick up or deliver on-site. With three delivery trucks and one sub-contractor, Wayne said they are very busy delivering all over Melbourne.
Now a HBT member for around 15 years, Wayne said he has always valued the group because it provides the ability to be to be a part of a big buying group while remaining in full control of his business.
“I was quite dubious about HBT when the late Tim Starkey first approached me to join the group. Eventually I could not see what the catch was and there simply was not one. The group had a very minimal joining fee and gave us good buying power and rebates, while also opening up a range of stuff that we had access to,” he said.
As Wayne continues to navigate his way through the next few months, he said his focus will remain on building the store’s website and social media presence.
“We will really just respond to what is going on in the market throughout the pandemic. We will also continue to expand our range in store and focus more on the hardware retail customer in the future, particularly as the DIY sector continues to grow in the local area,”