Mitre 10 Mt Wellington opens inspirational garden centre

by | Jun 15, 2022

While most of New Zealand’s hardware stores struggled just to keep up with online orders and drive through pick-ups throughout COVID lockdowns, Mitre 10 MEGA Mt Wellington (Auckland) spent its lockdown time wisely.

Mitre 10 Mt Wellington opens inspirational garden centre

Business: Mitre 10 MEGA Mt Wellington
Member Principals: Raymond Yee & Dennis Yee
Store Management: Edmond Yee & Michael Lay-Yee
Location: Mt Wellington, Auckland, New Zealand
Building Group: Mitre 10 New Zealand

Over the past two years Member Principals, Ray and Dennis Yee have managed an extensive garden centre upgrade and new café, placing the store in good stead for garden competitors that plan to move next door to the store in the coming months.

“Having competitors move so close to your store is not always a bad thing. Like they say if you want to swim fast you need a shark to be swimming right behind you!”

Originally the garden centre was located at one end of the store. Throughout the lockdowns, Ray and his team decided to build a roof and walls over the former garden centre and transform the space into a display area for all of the latest outdoor products. 

“We then established an entirely new garden centre outside of the building and built a new café within the garden centre as well which has worked out really well,” Ray said.

The new garden centre and integrated café is an impressive footprint that sits at around 2,000 square metres, while the former garden centre – and now outdoor living area sits at around 1,300 square metres.”

“Customers have the option of entering the café from inside the building, but we also have a wall of glass doors that look straight out onto the garden centre from the café. Café tables are placed throughout the garden centre so customers can have their coffee and food while sitting amongst the plants and the displays,” Ray said.

“The garden centre was specifically designed to integrate well with the café. Placing seating throughout the garden centre allows customers to get a real feel of the centre from the café. It also provides some inspiration to shoppers of what it might be like when they are sitting on their own patio. This is where they can easily visualise what their backyard may look like with a new variety of palms or pots or even new outdoor furniture,” he said.

Having an interactive garden centre in-store captures the customer’s imagination much better than simply displaying products, Ray said.

“We are now moving into a different era of retailing. Our garden centre creates so much more excitement for the customer than simply having products sitting on a shelf at a certain price. So instead of coming to the store and just browsing the shelves, they come to our store and are given plenty of inspiration just by walking through,” he said.

The store’s new café was designed specifically so customers could enjoy their food while looking at the stunning new garden centre.

“While our competitors might say their strengths would be having an abundance of products at the lowest prices, and this certainly appeals to some customers, there are also plenty of customers looking for inspiration on how to improve their indoor and outdoor living environment. They do not necessarily want the cheapest products, but they do want products that are suitable for their home.”

“We do not try to pull customers into our stores because we have the cheapest products. While we do want to give our customers value for money, we believe that offering new ideas and inspiration is also vital when helping them decide what products they want for their garden or home,” Ray said.

An in-store revamp was also implemented throughout the COVID lockdowns, which was more about giving the store a decent tidy and extending some of the bays to make way for additional shelf space.

Table and chairs from the café are placed strategically throughout the garden centre so customers can visualise how products will look within their own home.

“We wanted to introduce new product ranges, so we extended some of our bays to create more shelf space while also rearranging the shelves to make the store look less cluttered. Although we do have a big store, we still stock over 40,000 items. We needed to de-clutter so we could make room for more new items and get rid of the stagnant ones.”

“All of the store’s lighting has also changed to LED to increase power efficiency, make the store more environmentally friendly, while also delivering better lighting throughout, which is important when it comes to how the store is presented inside as well,” Ray said.

Store history

It was in 1986 that Ray and his brother Dennis established their original 100 square metre, hardware store with just four staff on-board.

“The original store was tiny but we did not need a lot of staff because back in those days we only traded five and a half days a week. Our current store is around 12,000 square metres and trades 7am to 7pm, seven days a week. We can have up to 140 staff running the store at times, so it has all changed substantially since our first store 36 years ago,” Ray said.

“We knew we needed to build a bigger store because globally retail was trending towards bigger and better stores. It was only a matter of time before the trend towards big box stores and extended hours came to New Zealand as well.”

“These days a smaller hardware store would never have enough room to hold all the stock needed to satisfy today’s customer, which is why we moved to a bigger store which also incorporates a drive-through area for the trade customers. Even though our current store is ten times bigger than the original store, even today we are finding it is not big enough.”

“It just makes sense to expand when you see what other stores are doing around the world and the demands on your business day-to-day just keep on increasing. We needed to evolve with our customer’s needs and also keep up with our competition because we have plenty of other home improvement stores in our local area,” he said.

Local competition ramps up

Mitre 10 MEGA Mt Wellington not only has a Bunnings store less than one kilometre away and a PlaceMakers about 500 metres away, but also several smaller trade stores in the area including plumbing, flooring and lighting specialists as well.

“A new garden centre is also opening up just next door this winter, but competition is not always a bad thing. We were the only home improvement store here 12 years ago but people soon realise just how accessible this area is and it is their goal to park beside us and share some of our success,” Ray said.

With the store now servicing 75 per cent retail and 25 per cent trade, Ray says although the store is a little bit constricted by space, the team easily conducts business by utilising the drive-through area available for local trade and developing off-site solutions.

“For now, we will make sure that we optimise our retail business with the recent revamp and look to grow our trade and on-line shopping capability into the future,” Ray said.