Mitre 10 store splits in twoto make way for Total Tools

by | Jul 2, 2024

Trading directly across the road from a large Bunnings warehouse, Port Lincoln Mitre 10 is up against some of the fiercest competition in Australia. But it seems the store is holding up well against the big box after the store underwent an extensive transformation and also implemented a new Total Tools store.

Business: Port Lincoln Mitre 10
Owners: Fiona Rosalia
Location: Port Lincoln, South Australia
Buying Group: Independent Hardware Group (IHG)

Port Lincoln Mitre 10

After working in the hardware industry for most of her life, store owner Fiona Rosalia said it was a dream come true when she purchased Port Lincoln Mitre 10 in 2017. Since purchasing the store Fiona has not only undertaken the Independent Hardware Group’s  (IHG) extensive in-store Sapphire transformation but has also split the store in two to make way for a new Total Tools store.

“I started out in the hardware industry working at the local store when I was just 13 years old and eventually, I went on to manage the Mitre 10 store in Whyalla. When I moved to Port Lincoln, I knew the owner of this store and began working in a management role straight away. When the opportunity came up to purchase the business I jumped at the chance.”

Fiona says having her own hardware store is, “just the ultimate”. Even though the Bunnings store has traded across the road since 2013, Fiona has continued to grow and evolve her business extensively.

“While it was tough when they first built in town, we just kept doing our own thing at the store and that is pretty much what we have continued to do. We try to do things differently to the way they do it and I think that has been the key to our survival. We also give a lot back to the community and this showed when we needed locals to support us as well,” Fiona said.

Port Lincoln Mitre 10
The local community came together to clean up Port Lincoln Mitre 10 after it was devastated by a major flood in 2020.

The support of the local community was particularly evident after a devastating storm swept through Port Lincoln in 2020. The store was severely damaged, but many locals volunteered their time and skills to help get the business back on its feet which Fiona says, “was just incredible to see the community come together”.

Significant store transformation

By December 2022 Fiona had not only totally transformed her Mitre 10 store under the IHG Sapphire Transformation Program, but had also split the store in two to make way for the new Total Tools offer.

Port Lincoln Mitre 10 Total Tools

“We implemented the new Total Tools as well as undertook the Sapphire Transformation Program all at the same time. So we basically built two brand new stores in a very short period of time.”

The original Mitre 10 store sat at around 2100 square metres but was condensed to 1200 square metres for the Mitre 10 side and 900 square metres for Total Tools. Fiona also has a significant trade centre on a separate site that sits on 3000 square metres. 

“Before we undertook the transformation, we did hold some trade products in the retail store but we made the decision to pull all of our trade out of the retail store to make way for the new Total Tools. So the first step was removing this trade area to create some space.”

“We then had a massive clean out of all of our old stock and put a wall up through the centre of the store. The new Sapphire store was built first, before we went onto to build the new Total Tools,” she said.

Taking on the new Total Tools store was a no brainer for Fiona, who said as soon as Metcash announced they had bought into the Total Tools group, she put her hand up to be a part of the group straight away.

“Not only does Total Tools complement the Mitre 10 store, it also services a need in the local area. There is still some fine tuning to be done on what products sell best on which side of the business and making sure we have the correct ranges in-store, but they certainly complement each other really well,” she said.

Port Lincoln Mitre 10

“While we did move some staff from the Mitre 10 store, we also brought in a whole new team into the Total Tools side of the business. We now have 25 staff in the Mitre 10 and eight in the Total Tools store,” she said. 

Local growth

Port Lincoln is well known for its agricultural and aquacultural industries, which is why Fiona believed there was always a need for a specialist tool store within the local area.

“I have worked in this industry for over 35 years so I understand what local’s needs are. I understood what Port Lincoln was missing out on just by looking at the network of people coming into the store and the gaps in this market. I also had some inside knowledge of what sales were going out of the town, particularly through the online space, which is why I knew there was an opportunity there,” she said.

Port Lincoln Mitre 10

“There is still plenty of growth in the local area in the smaller towns outside of Port Lincoln, including Coffin Bay, Streaky Bay and all up the coast because there are a lot investors building out this way who are from the major cities. COVID was quite big for us because we had so many people travelling through the town and they realised it is such a beautiful part of the world. So now there are a lot of tourists investing here.”

“We also know that you do not have to sit in an office to work and people can work from a lot of different places now, which is why so many are moving from the cities to towns like ours,” Fiona said.

Strong local competition

While the nearby Bunnings is Port Lincoln Mitre 10’s biggest competitor, there are several specialist stores nearby including Stratco, Lincoln Building Supplies and Eyre Trading, as well as online sales through Sydney Tools and Tool Kit Depot.

Port Lincoln Mitre 10

“Having the Total Tools branding on the front of the store makes it very clear to customers that they are getting good pricing every day and they do not need to shop around. They can just walk into our store and find the trusted brands they are after at the right price.”

Implementing a continual point of difference in-store also helps the business trade against its competitors. One such point of difference is the store’s iconic Christmas display which is managed by Fiona’s mum, Margaret, every year.

“Just about all of the display we put out at Christmas has been made by my mum and her friend, including nativity scenes. We also set up a Santa’s cave and kids bring in their letters and mum handwrites back to every single one of them. She has kept all of their letters from all the years gone by and she comments on how their handwriting changes over the years. At 72, Mum still has a lot to do with helping out in the business.” 

Port Lincoln Mitre 10 Christmas display
The store is famous for its extensive handmade Christmas display which includes a Santa cave where children deliver their letters to Santa.

Fiona says that when customers come into the store, they make it very clear that they are there to support a local business. In turn, Fiona not only supports just about every sporting group in town, but also supplies all of the sausages, gas and barbecues when sausage sizzles are held for charity at the front of the store, so they can raise a decent amount of money.

Staff incentive program

Fiona not only gives back to the local community, but makes a point of giving back to her staff as well by implementing a substantial staff incentive program for her manager and all of her staff.

“Some of management have been given the opportunity to buy into the business, including my trade manager Issac Phillis who I am very lucky to have. He is a pretty special person so to keep him involved in the business I gave him the opportunity to buy in and this has definitely changed the way he approaches day to day tasks.”

Port Lincoln Mitre 10

“All other staff receive an incentive program which is based on sales growth and rewards everyone by acknowledging they are all part of a team. They go that extra mile because they know they will benefit from this, while also maintaining staff loyalty. We work on sales growth on a monthly basis, so even though there is not growth every single month, those months that do show growth in the business incentivize the staff. It is based on everyone’s effort and it just makes everyone accountable to the business. I believe this program has become a huge asset to the business,” she said.

Future plans…

Fiona says working with IHG is great because she has the support while still being able to have that independence, “so I can still incorporate those things that mean a lot to me and my staff and the community.”

Port Lincoln Mitre 10 timber yard

Although the new Mitre 10 store and Total Tools store is just over a year old, Fiona already has big plans to revamp the trade store located on a separate site. 

“We already have plans in place to upgrade the trade centre and this will also trade six days a week instead of five. We want to open this store up on weekends and also make the store more retail orientated.”

“We are in the process of starting the ground work now – and we will continue to work with IHG to grow both stores, while enjoying our independence and implementing all of those points of difference that makes us stand out from our competitors,” Fiona concluded.