Sunlite Mitre 10 adds sixth store to the group

New owner, Steven Czeiger with former owner Michael Rees.

Sunlite Mitre 10 recently opened its sixth boutique hardware store in the established community of Mosman, Sydney, after taking over the store from long-standing owners, Jane and Michael Rees, who operated the store for over 30 years.

Business: Sunlite Mitre 10
Owner: Steven Czeiger
Location: Mosman, NSW

Sunlite Mitre 10 is a well-known family business that originated in Sydney’s eastern suburbs 32 years ago, and recently made the leap over the bridge to become part of the Mosman local community.

New shelving and signage was part of the Sunlite Mitre 10 ‘Sapphire’ upgrade.

The business operates a group of six Mitre 10 hardware stores including Mosman, two stores in Sydney’s CBD, and three stores in the inner eastern suburbs of Paddington, Bondi Junction and Newtown. The business is renowned for its ‘boutique hardware’ offer that has transformed the DIY experience for inner-city shoppers.

Sunlite Mitre 10 Managing Director, Steven Czeiger, was presented with the opportunity to purchase the Mosman store earlier this year and did not hesitate given the longstanding reputation of the business within the local community and alignment with the store’s loyal customer base. 

Since taking over the store, the Sapphire Program – which is Mitre 10’s signature transformation program – was gradually implemented and the business also expanded into a neighboring site, for the development of an outdoor lifestyle area.

Formally known as Ewen’s Hardware, the store has been a stronghold in the Mosman community since the 1970s. It was originally located in Raglan Street East until it was relocated to its current location in the 1980s. 

Former owners, Michael and Jane were well known in the Mosman community and said they had enjoyed getting to know customers over the years, but felt it was time to retire. 

Sunlite Mitre 10 Mosman expanded into the site next door to open a new lifestyle centre.

“Steven is a very successful and enthusiastic businessman and I am very happy to be able to hand over the reins to him and know the business is in safe hands,” Michael said.

Stand out qualities

Located in the tight-knit, high socio-economic suburb of Mosman, Sunlite Mitre 10 primarily serves a varied group of customers.

“The locals visit this store particularly because they thoroughly enjoy dealing with the team who work there. What Michael and Jane did really well was nurture and embrace the exceptional customer service in-store,” Steven said.

Although the store is only around 250 squares in size, Steven said it still has a decent trade offering of around 20 to 30 per cent. The loading dock cleverly services this segment of the business by providing sand and cement, timber, concrete and Gyprock. 

“Around 30 per cent of the business caters to the trade market, servicing tradies who are in Mosman and do not want to drive to a ‘big box’ outlet, so they come and get what they need from us. The remaining 70 per cent of customers make up the ‘fix and replace’ side of the business, so they are looking for products to maintain their properties such as hooks, light globes and general hardware,” Steven said.

Although Sunlite Mitre 10 took over the store earlier this year, Steven said the store did not move to Mitre 10 until a few months ago, spending the first six months remaining under the Ewen’s Hardware banner which was done on purpose, he said.

“We did not want to shock the local customers with too much change. This is because from the minute Jane and Michael wrote a letter to their customers saying there was a new owner, customers would come in and say ‘do not change anything. We love it how it is and you have to keep the staff’.”

“The store transformation was a slow process to keep customers and staff happy. This included new shelving, re-painting and installing new lights, a new floor – new technology and a new loyalty program. We just did it very slowly so customers saw these as pleasant changes, rather than closing the store down and doing a big renovation. This community especially did not want to see any change,” Steven said.

Thankfully the ‘slowly, gently’ approach worked, and locals are happy with the final result. Steven said the gradual renovations also gave him and the team an opportunity to learn.

“This will be our fifth Sapphire transformation in the group and because we have done so many, IHG trust in us to complete these transformations because they know we set a very high standard.”

“Even though it did take three months to complete these changes, it is still quite fast considering what was achieved. We did not close the store down for one day. It was all done while we were still trading during the day or after hours at night,’ Steven said.

Recruiting the right staff for the right job is crucial to Sunlite Mitre 10.

Recruiting the best staff for the job

Although it is very important to develop a fresh and bright look in-store, exceptional service to the local community combined with the implementation of an appropriate shopper lead range, are two main focuses for the business moving forward, as well as continually looking for opportunities to grow and expand, Steven said.

 “We did recently acquire the site next door which is now a ‘lifestyle centre’ for the business, and this now includes barbeques, outdoor settings, plants and garden products. Before we took over there were no sales in the outdoor sector of the business, which is also the category that includes barbecue settings. However, this is now growing very quickly. This is also a segment that is perfect for the store’s customer base as well,” he said.

When combatting competition, Steven said that although there is a Bunnings in the area, the Mosman store has an offer that is completely different to the Big Box.

“Having the right people in the right zones of the business so that they continue to love their jobs, and pass on this same energy to their customers is what is so important about the Sunlite Mitre 10 business. It is also for this reason that recruiting the right staff for the right position is so important, and it is a constant process for me.”

“I am always looking for talent. I am always interviewing and looking for someone special. We are a family, which is why we employ people that genuinely love customers or want a career where they can grow and learn. These people are very easy to nurture, and will do anything to help grow the business,” Steven said.

Future focus

While Sunlite Mitre 10 Mosman has now completed 80 per cent of its renovations to date, Steven said the final process includes having a new shop front installed at the location.

“In addition to the new shop front, we will also continue developing the new outdoor lifestyle area that we have just created, but we are learning a lot as we go along. Today you see Webers, settings and plants, but we need some more data around this so we know what the consumer really wants.”

“A good example of this is we put in small baby Webers in our new lifestyle area in the first few weeks and they did not move as fast as we thought they would. Then last week we put in the bigger Weber which is called the ‘Spirit Weber’ and all of the sudden the larger ones are moving, so we are still really developing the range,” Steven said.

This refining of products will also include advancing the small trade offering we have available in-store currently, he said.

“These are all plans that we have in place just for our Mosman store, however there are a lot of plans for other stores within the group for next year as well. This will include the implementation of the Sapphire transformation at the Bondi Junction store, so that will be six out of the six Sunlite Mitre 10 stores that have undertaken the Mitre 10 Sapphire transformation program.”

In conclusion, Steven said his business remains primarily based around customer service and ensuring that those who live within the Mosman community want to come back to the store every day, and deal with people they know and trust.