Permewans wins IHG’s HT&H Store of the Year Award

When Denise and Paul Bast originally bought their Thrifty-Link store in 2002, little did they know that 19 years on they would win IHG’s (Independent Hardware Group’s) Home Timber & Hardware Store of the Year Award, after completely transforming the store. 

Business: Permewans Mitre 10 
Owners: Denise & Paul Bast
Location: Hamilton, Victoria

It is little wonder Permewans Mitre 10 won ‘IHG’s Home Timber & Hardware 2019 Store of the Year Award, over 1000 square metres’, after Denise and Paul transformed their store from a Home Timber & Hardware DIY focused store, to a Mitre 10 trade focussed store in just three months, late last year.

Permewans Mitre 10 store won ‘IHG’s Home Timber & Hardware 2019 Store of the Year Award, over 1000 square metres’, after completely changing the store’s focus in just three months, late last year.

Changing the focus of the popular Home Timber & Hardware store located in the rural Victorian town of Hamilton, began in 2016 when Denise and Paul made plans to relocate their timber yard out of its existing shed to the rear of the store. The couple also planned to move the store’s popular produce business – which had grown to a third of the store’s sales – into the timber yard shed.

“Although our Home Timber & Hardware store performed very well before last year’s renovation, our most popular department would have been produce. After last year’s renovation the trade part of the store has definitely outgrown the produce area because we have really changed the whole focus of the store,” he said.

Initially the IHG team drew up plans for the store to conduct the relocation, as well as re-brand to Mitre 10. However, at the time there was another Mitre 10 store in town so they were classed as a clash site, according to Paul.

“It was a bit of a sticky situation because there was also a lot of support for the other Mitre 10 store in town, which was a bigger trade outlet than us. This is when we got serious about implementing more trade into our store and laid over 2200 square metres of concrete into our back yard, while also investing heavily in new racking at the rear of the store,” he said.

Incredibly, while the relocations were being planned, the town’s second Mitre 10 store was sold to Bunnings mid last year. It was then that Denise and Paul knew they had to do all they could to capture the local trade market, because the Bunnings store would be hard to beat in the retail and DIY segments. The IHG team then came on board to fully support the store and also ensure its distribution levels were maintained locally. 

Major renovation in just three months 

The intensive re-lay and redevelopment of the store began in September 2019, with an aim to complete all changes by Christmas. It was also during this time that the town’s second Mitre 10 closed in November and Bunnings opened on the same site just before Christmas. 

Permewans was rebranded from a HT&H store to a Mitre 10 store late last year.

Denise and Paul put in such an incredible effort re-laying and re-branding their store, that their sales were maintained in every department and they also achieved major growth in trade sales throughout December and January.

“Before we changed the store to be more trade focused, we sat down with the IHG team and went through a full planning session of where we wanted to be and what we wanted to do, as well our strengths and weaknesses. We then worked on plans and re-lays to re-design the store’s trade area. IHG staff then spent several weeks helping us move fixtures and re-laying the store. IHG even dropped other jobs to make sure the store, ends and vehicles were signed and painted within the timeline. By the time Bunnings opened in town in December we were a fully blown Mitre 10.”

After the major renovations were completed Permewans Mitre 10 had a full trading month in January and never dropped in one department, while going head-to-head with local competition.

“While we were heavily renovating, it was also very busy in-store because we were the only hardware store open in the area at that time. This meant our working days started at 6am and we worked until 11pm most days, with no days off from September until Christmas. We worked long days, every day to try and get the store to a stage where we wanted it,” Paul said.

“We had a full trading month in January going head to head with our competition in town, and we never dropped in one department. Our timber and building supplies were also up at the end of January,” Paul said.

While so much has already been achieved at Permewans Mitre 10, owners Paul and Denise say ongoing store developments will continue as always.

Outstanding store history

Upon first buying the 100-year old business, Paul and Denise initially took on a store that was very old and run-down.

After purchasing the business, Paul brought with him an extensive background in retail after helping out his parents with their local furniture store when he was young, before working in the local timberyard, and also managing the local Mitre 10 for many years. Denise also brought extensive accounting and administration experience to the business after working in an accounting firm for over 20 years, so the couple had plenty of skills behind them when they initially took on the store.

Both Denise and Paul fell in love with the business not only because it had such an extensive 100-year history, but because they could see potential in the business if it was nurtured and loved.

“The business was also quite small due to the previous owners selling off the timberyard 18 months prior to us buying the store. It took us eight years to buy back the timberyard and we have continually worked on expanding and developing the store,” Paul said.

“Initially we bought the timber yard and developed a big drive through area so customers could drive in through the shop and into the back yard. We also pulled out of a lot of internal walls in the shop as there were a lot of pigeon hole rooms. When we renovated and extended onto the back, it allowed us to open the store up into a big area,” he said.

Permewans Mitre 10 was initially a Danks store, with its first re-launch and re-brand to a blue Thrifty-Link store taking place August in 2009. This was when the store was modernised while also maintaining its original character and charm. A new range was also implemented in-store to maintain interest and entice new customers to the store.

“We have not stopped renovating the store in the 19 years we have been in here. Every 12 to 18 months there has been a re-launch or a new fixture layout so we could get to the stage that we are at now.”

Providing knowledgeable, genuine customer service has also remained a high priority for Denise and Paul, because it not only maintains loyal customers, but also ensures the store remains an integral part of the local community.

Stand out, rural store

The store is now a stand-alone store on a 6000 square metre site with the back yard boasting an area of 2200 square metres and the store sitting at around 2500 square metres. The store’s percentage of DIY/Trade customers sits at 50/50. Permewans Mitre 10 is located in the Victorian rural town of Hamilton, with the local industry dominated by wealthy lamb, cattle and grain farmers.

“Most of the lamb for the whole country comes out of our area, so it is a very wealthy farming area. Those who build in town have most likely come off the farm to build and retire, with local farmers definitely investing in the local area. What is happening in other parts of the country, with drought, bushfire and flood – we do not get any of that here. We live in a great part of Victoria,” Paul said.

Looking into the future, the store’s plans include eventually
completing the Mitre 10 ‘Sapphire’ transformation program.

“At the moment however, we have moved so quick developing the store I think we have at least another 12 months to finish what we are doing now. While the store looks great from a customer’s point of view, from our perspective we still have a hell of a lot to do with automatic ordering, etc. We are also currently advertising five new jobs because we need to get the staffing structure right to be able to cope with the change in business,” Paul said.

While Paul believes there is still 12 months’ worth of work to finish off all of the changes to the award-winning store, ongoing development of the store will continue on like it always has.