Trade Centre puts 50 years of experience behind latest venture

Store name: Versatile Mitre 10 
Store owners: Dom Stillitano 
Buying group: (Independent Hardware Group) IHG

For over five decades, Versatile Mitre 10, located in Malaga WA, has operated as a family run specialist trade outlet servicing the builder market of Perth. To position the business for growth amidst a toughening competitive landscape, 12 months ago the family undertook its biggest challenge in 50 years.

Versatile Mitre 10 is a proud family owned and operated trade business run by the Stillitano family in the Perth suburb of Malaga. Established in 1961 by Dom Stillitano, the original core business was famous for the onsite production of decorative plaster cornices, mouldings and ceiling roses, and to this day remains a point of difference for the business. 

Dom and his wife Nancy went on to expand into builder’s hardware in 1985, trading under Versatile Building Products and in 1987, operated a Thrifty-Link store for a period in Karratha. The family joined Mitre 10 in 2012. 

Versatile Mitre 10 has grown and evolved its trade offer substantially over the years, and Dom says the family has never really stopped renovating and exploring new opportunities, with the business expanding to 25 employees, including three trade representatives and three generations of Stillitanos.

The eight family members currently working in the business include Dom’s daughter, Lisa Stanoevski who is also General Manager, two grandsons (Damien and Adrian), son-in-law (Zarko), brother (Nutz) as well as two nephews (John and Leith).

“Over the years, more and more family members have come on board in the business, which is great because I know they want to make a future for themselves,” Dom said.

L to R: Nancy Stillitano, Adrian Stanoevski (grandson), Lisa Stanoevski (daughter), Dom Stillitano and Damien Stanoevski (grandson).

All new Trade Centre

After 50 years in operation, and seven years operating as a successful Mitre 10 trade outlet, the family recognised that to position the business for long-term growth, it would require a dramatic evolution. 

And so, with the support of Mitre 10, the family put their weight behind the Sapphire ‘Trade Only’ model, transforming the Malaga site as a dedicated store of the future Trade Centre. The extensive store conversion aimed to reposition the business so that it could adequately meet existing customers’ needs and attract new trade business amidst a toughening competitive landscape, according to Dom.

Dom said that although the family has consistently renovated the store over the years, taking on the Trade Sapphire Program was an entirely new experience because it meant relying on expert advice and trade knowledge from outside the business.

“We have been strongly involved in the building and construction industry for many years, and taken on projects throughout Western Australia. This involvement has allowed us to gain a lot of knowledge in what is required in an end product and what our trade customers require specifically. We also knew we needed to adjust our offer to stay ahead of our competitors and give customers everything that they require,” he said. 

“It was about 12 months ago that we commenced discussions with Mitre 10 to consider the Trade Sapphire Program. Once it was agreed, we worked closely together to build the execution plan that specifically met the needs for the WA trade market,” Dom said.

The planning began by assessing the store’s due diligence and feasibilities, as well as focusing on where the Stillitano family wanted to drive the business into the future.  

“Though we have had decades of experience in servicing the trade, we recognised the building market was shifting and it was necessary for us to do things differently. Competition around us is pretty severe. We currently have Bunnings, Plumbtec, Tradelink, Reece, plus numerous independent mouldings/building supplies outlets, all within a three kilometre radius of our store,” he said.

“Making the changes on our own was not a realistic option whereas with the backing of Mitre 10’s Sapphire Trade Program, we have gained an edge in the local market and it has provided our business a solid platform for future growth. This was particularly crucial considering we deal with so many trade people on a daily basis. I believe we have now mastered what our trade customers need and will continue to expand this offer as we grow,” he said.

Support from Mitre 10

With the Sapphire Program near completion, Dom spoke very highly of the Mitre 10 team for their expertise and enthusiasm, and the fully transparent process in building a tailored business plan that met the family’s expectations. 

One of the most insightful aspects that Dom believes he and his staff have taken from the Sapphire Trade Program is the importance of store layout and traffic flow specifically suited for the trade.

“Although we have changed the store layout regularly throughout the years, we also know it is important to listen to external advice. It has been clear throughout the process the Mitre 10 team have the trade credentials and knowledge on store design when it comes to creating store standards, services and planograms,” Dom said.

Customers can now easily move about in Versatile’s revamped drive through area.

Lisa believes Mitre 10’s use of recommended planograms, while allowing for tailored local ranges, helped to ensure its members carry a proven customer-led range that gives it an edge over its competitors.

“They know this through the scan data analytics across their network. They have seen and experienced the success of these dedicated trade layouts in other stores, which is a great comparison to the dynamics in our local area. We have already seen a definite improvement in sales and I expect this will continue to lift up over the next few months,” Lisa said.

Although the business still needs to clear some stock that created a dead area, Dom is looking forward to clearing product that is not suitable for its operation.  

“Having a dedicated Mitre 10 Trade Centre is all about having the right range specifically for the trade, and not being everything to everyone. This means we have made a call on various ranges or brands that have been proven to not sell or where we could consolidate the amount of stock we hold. 

“Since the renovation we have condensed the area that we were using in-store. This has left us with a large vacant area which gives us the opportunity to introduce new categories such as a bathroom and plumbing display centre. This will be built over the next few months. We also have a number of other products up our sleeves that we intend to introduce in the near future,” he said.

Delivery service improves with Truck Tracker

Around 65 per cent of Versatile Mitre 10’s sales are delivered directly to building sites.

As a dedicated Trade Centre outlet, it comes as little surprise to learn that over 65 per cent of Versatile Mitre 10’s sales are delivered directly to building sites. It is for this reason that a fleet of seven trucks now service customers within a 100-kilometre radius.

Mitre 10’s popular ‘Truck Tracker’ delivery management technology was also recently implemented, which is an efficient program that measures fleet performance and offers a new level of service for its trade customers, according to Lisa. 

Dom’s oldest grandson, Damien Stanoevski, the store’s Logistics Manager, has taken the lead with ‘Truck Tracker’, doing an exceptional job to educate both customers and staff on how the program operates and benefits both stakeholders.

“Truck Tracker has allowed us to implement a fully integrated system so that we can communicate with customers exactly where we are at with their orders, right through to tracking the delivery truck,” Lisa said.

In the early days, the deliveries were not required to be as frequent as they are now, with the trucks primarily used to deliver to remote areas, according to Dom.

“The North West has changed quite a bit in the last 25 years and our delivery service is now one of the growing areas of the business because we now have the ability to handle any sort of product or transport. Our yard can also now handle big semi-trailers, and our loading yard boasts the best facilities of any store in Western Australia. So, it is easy to accommodate customers with building material that is bulky and heavy and difficult to handle at times.”

“We have always had a drive through area but we have never used it the way we are now. With Mitre 10’s help we have improved the traffic plan so that it is much roomier, allowing customers to easily move about with their vehicles, and to easily access the merchandise,” he said. 

A new ‘tradie hub’ was also built into the drive through area, where there is a new coffee facility and seating area, so tradies can sit down with a coffee, have their plans printed and go over what they need to do for the day and exchange ideas.

“It really is a great area and gives tradies somewhere to plan their day in an indoor space, which is especially great in the winter months at the moment,” Lisa said.

Local geographic

Located 12 kilometres out of the Perth CBD, the stand-alone Trade Centre is located on a main arterial road.

“We are in one of the best locations to jump on any direction of the major freeways, which is the reason why we are in the perfect position to grow our business,” Lisa said.

The store now boasts a 13,465 square metre footprint, including its expansive timber yard and drive through, as well as a 300 square metre plaster manufacturing plant.

With the business positioned as a one-stop destination for building products, the family’s mission statement reiterates the importance of building strong relationships, taking care of the customer and delivering superior service. 

“Our mission is to form trusting and lasting partnerships with our customers, with a focus and desire that will ensure the home improvement and building process is enjoyable, offers cost effective solutions and success for everyone,” Dom said.

Family strengths

Staying true to its humble beginnings, the onsite manufacturing of decorative plaster products for domestic and commercial use also remains a unique feature of the business today.

The store’s onsite manufacturing of decorative plaster products for domestic and commercial products is a stand out feature in-store.

The production of ceiling roses, bulkheads, curved cornices, plaster acoustic tiles, fire places, corbels, decorative rails and restoration of lost designs are creations that are a real passion of the Stillitano family.

The store also boasts several award-winning staff members with Damien Stanoevski recently named the 2019 WA Industry Rising Star as part of Hardware Australia program. Damien was thrilled to receive a week-long induction career development program conducted in Melbourne in April 2019

The store is also proud to be a member of the Housing Industry Association (HIA), the Association of Wall and Ceiling Contractors and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (WA).

Building the next move

For now, Dom said he and his family will continue to settle into the new Trade Centre format and ensure all elements of what has been implemented over the last 12 months are running effectively, as well as looking at areas to improve their efficiency and turnover into the future.

“It is a credit to all our loyal and long-serving staff who have given Dom the initiative to continue to run the business and take the store to a new level that secures a solid future for all. Loyal staff and longevity of their employment are the crucial assets in us maintaining long-term customer confidence and loyalty,” Lisa concluded.