Pioneer Hardware broadens service to booming categories 

by | May 2, 2024

Although Pioneer Hardware once serviced much of the independent hardware sector, the well-known merchandiser has now chosen to exclusively service Bunnings, and focus all of its resources and energy into the big green box.

Pioneer Hardware General Manager Michael Sutton says the business has continued to evolve by offering its clients a broader and more diverse service to accommodate their needs as required. 

“An example of our service includes the implementation of quick response projects which provide data to our clients so they can implement sales-focused plans. One of Pioneer Hardware’s key strategies is continually reinvesting into the business system and processes while also tailoring to market trends and requirements for our customers into real-time data reports and images. This has become a valuable tool for our customer’s own internal reporting and forecasting strategies,” Mr Sutton said.

One category that has grown particularly well in the past 12 months is pet products. While Pioneer Hardware has serviced several pet suppliers in Bunnings for many years, the introduction of a larger offering in this sector has seen substantial growth in sales in the past 12 months. 

“Pioneer Hardware has been successful in broadening our services in the paint department and general hardware in the past year also with favorable outcomes.  Due to the expansion and success of the cleaning categories recently, we have seen substantial growth within these departments along with an increased range and growth with our clothesline range. This year I also see future expansion and the introduction of new lines within the automotive range,” he said.

In the past 12 months alone, there have been several stand-out suppliers that have grown particularly well, including the plumbing and paint sectors which Pioneer Hardware believes is surprising given the rising cost of living.

“Despite ongoing media reports on the increased costs of living and rising interest rates, there is still really good growth being demonstrated in many categories including the plumbing, paint and pet categories. I believe this growth will continue particularly with our customers in the building sector, which continues to be our strongest category for now. Growth in paint has also been outstanding and we expect this growth to continue for some time, due to the customers preferring to renovate and DIY instead of employing trades due to the rising costs of professionals, ” he said. 

As a national service supplier, Pioneer Hardware is showing growth across all states, however, the team also highlighted that regional areas are showing slightly higher growth than metro store locations. While the team does not service New Zealand clients currently, if interest does evolve from its current or new client base, Mr Sutton says that Pioneer Hardware will explore this in the future. 

For now, Pioneer Hardware is happy to work within the needs of any new client, offering a trial-based agreement or a short-term engagement period so they can see if the merchandiser is the right fit for them. 

“We are happy for clients to ‘try before they buy’ so to speak. At the end of the day, we want to make sure our clients are comfortable with the service and value our business offers. Brands are definitely reviewing their current service models and are considering ways to service their markets more efficiently. This is particularly evident in the new calendar year and also in July with the new financial year when clients review their service models and consider ways to service their markets more efficiently.”

Just some of the primary challenges faced by agencies more recently include team retention and recruitment. This is also why Pioneer Hardware’s number one focus is its people, Mr Sutton says.

“This is why we make sure that we have strategies in place that allow our team members to have ongoing support, training, annual appraisals, and recognition schemes to keep our team engaged and motivated. Our leadership members play a key role in working with our team out in their store environment,” he said.

Tom says Pioneer Hardware is happy to offer new clients a trial-based agreement so they can see if the merchandiser is the right fit for them.

For now, the team is excited for the year ahead after Bunnings invested heavily in its new stock management, ordering and forecasting system, ‘Demand & Replenishment’ (D&R). Collectively with Bunnings, Pioneer Hardware has already held several team meetings and training sessions so that it can totally embrace and understand the system.

Mr Sutton says this ensures that both its leadership and field teams are prepared for the launch and assisting its customers along the way.

“The industry is always changing. With Bunnings moving into diverse categories like pet and the growth in cleaning along with the changes in the fencing and storage departments, it will be interesting to see what is around the corner. Maybe an expansion of automotive or the introduction of a comprehensive range of white goods?” Mr Sutton concluded.