TradeTools expands into Cairns

TradeTools has not only just opened its eighteenth store in Far North Queensland, but also has two new stores in the pipeline which are scheduled to open in the next 12 months.

Business: TradeTools
Owner: Greg Ford
Location: Cairns, QLD

TradeTools Managing Director, Jeremy Stewart, said the official, week-long grand opening of the new Cairns store was so successful it broke many sales records, with the new store receiving an overwhelming response by the Cairns community.

“We initially opened the store with a soft opening in July last year with a strategy to ensure the store was the best that it could be for locals before the official grand opening in mid-August,” Jeremy said.

“This was our most successful grand-opening for the group ever, with an extraordinary attendance by the local community. In the lead up, the grand opening was marketed well with excellent offers for end users, and several different suppliers on-site throughout the week conducting demonstrations and marketing bonus offers,” he said.

Far reaching customer base

It seems that many of the new Cairns customers have already shopped with TradeTools even before the new Cairns store opened its doors. Jeremy said this was because there was not a huge amount of choice in Far North Queensland for certain brands.

“We were very appreciative of the warm welcome we received up there. Many of our customers did say that they had already shopped with us online or via phone, or they had travelled to our South East Queensland stores. We were told many times that a lot of locals have been waiting for us to come to town, which was really nice,” he said.

“There were quite a number of customers that visited the Cairns store who had one of our loyalty cards which they sourced from stores in South East Queensland, even though they lived up in Cairns. I think our VIT (Very Important Tradie) program is particularly popular because it allows tradies to easily track their purchases while giving access to special offers and exclusive deals,” Jeremy said.

Bundaberg and Hervey Bay are geographically the two closest TradeTools stores to the new Cairns store, with a lot of Cairns locals regularly visiting these and the Sunshine Coast TradeTools stores, because they worked in and around the Sunshine Coast area.

“In saying this, word is now spreading fast in the greater Far North Queensland region that our new Cairns store has opened. We are still seeing new customers come through every week,” he said.

Customer percentage at the Cairns store currently sits at 85 to 90 per cent of customers being trades people, business owners or primary producers. The remaining 10 to 15 per cent are renovators, owner builders and DIYers who are serious about tools and want higher levels of service, a broader range and a higher quality product than what is typically found in hardware stores and big boxes.

While local competition for the new TradeTools store includes Bunnings, Total Tools, Cairns Hardware and a couple of smaller independents, Jeremy believes customer loyalty, combined with a need for a local trade focused store will ensure the new store’s success. 

Stand out store qualities

To ensure it stands up to its local competition, TradeTools Cairns was designed with several stand out qualities, including a broader and deeper range, and higher stock levels than its local competitors.

“It is important to have a higher local stock level because we know that when a trade customer really needs something, they usually need it right away. Trades and businesses rely on their tools and very often they cannot wait for it to be ordered in. The fact that we own the buildings we operate from means we can invest more heavily in stock and in other areas,” Jeremy said.

While this is an important part of gaining loyalty from tradies, Jeremy said another vital point of difference is that TradeTools is a warranty and service agent for virtually everything the group sells.

“We believe that if you sell the gear you should be prepared to back it up with after sales service. Our Cairns store has an onsite service centre and a trained and experienced technician. This allows us to fix the gear that we sell and get it back to our customers as soon possible. This way our customers can get back to what they do and back to running their businesses. This is a service that the TradeTools group has become quite well known for,” he said.

When considering how tumultuous the Australian hardware market has been over the last 24 months, especially with the recent decline and now slow recovery of the building market, Jeremy said customer loyalty is just one of many aspects that sees TradeTools thrive when the market is slow.

L-R: Darren Kurtz, Shannon Dean, Tyson Bale, Simon Habermann and Warren Power. Front: Quinn Parker.

“We understand that the fundamentals of good business are even more important in turbulent times, which is why we focus on business essentials such as great service, product knowledge, a broad and deep range of products, alongside competitive prices. Further to what makes TradeTools a great company is that we recruit and retain the best staff there is. We also encourage our staff to move, develop, grow and chart their own careers within the group.”

“Staff also have the opportunity to be granted shares and become a part owner in the company that they work for. We have shareholders that work in the company every single day. This also gives our staff skin in the game and they know that if they contribute to growing the company, it also grows their wealth and the wealth of their fellow shareholders and co-workers that they work shoulder to shoulder with,” he said.

Store manager

TradeTools Cairns Store Development Manager, Darren Kurtz, has 10 years experience working with the group.

At the helm of the Far North Queensland store is Store Development Manager, Darren Kurtz. Darren has worked in various roles throughout the TradeTools group for many years.

“Darren has been with us for 10 years this year and he brings to Cairns his experience from management roles in our Gold Coast stores, along with a background in carpentry and electrical. He really knows tools and the tool industry very well. There has been a lot of support from us down here in South East Queensland, but he has been our man on the ground up there coordinating a lot of the Cairns store. He and the entire team are doing a great job so far and handling the challenge of the new store very well,” Jeremy said.

Company brand

TradeTools is also well known for its own tool brand, Renegade Industrial, which continues to gain momentum throughout all stores and is growing particularly well in Cairns.  

“Brands that are regularly sought out in-store include Makita, DeWalt, Milwaukee, Metabo and HiKOKI. However, our own Renegade Industrial brand is in very high demand as well. It has achieved a very strong following and high brand loyalty which we have built up over many years. Renegade Industrial’s quality certainly exceeds the expectation for that price point,” he said.

While many leading brands are sought by TradeTools customers in-store, the group’s own Renegade Industrial brand continues to grow in sales.

Tool storage is another category that is growing particularly well in the Cairns store, according to Jeremy.

“Tool storage is quite a successful category and includes tool boxes, ute canopies, and everything that allows a trades person to better organise their work space. Whether this is their van, ute, trailer or workshop, this is a huge category currently due to the growing need for security and organisation.”

“Tradesmen are smart. They need to know all of the technical components of what they do, but they are also running businesses and they understand that time is money. The more organised they are, the more efficient they are at their job, the more jobs they can do and the more money they earn. This is evolving more and more as the years go on,”
he said.

Marketing the store into the future

Ongoing plans to market and grow the Cairns store into the future include remaining agile, adapting to market change and ensuring it maintains high quality customer service.

For now, ongoing plans to market and grow the Cairns store over the next few years is a combination of strategies including remaining agile, adapting to changes in the market and ensuring it continues to do the best it can for its customers, Jeremy said. 

“Current reports on the ground, in regard to the greater Far North Queensland area, are that there is plenty of opportunity for us. Cairns is just a small part of the Far North which is why we currently have a store rep on the road up there. 

We hope he is the first of several reps we will employ who will feed this region. The current rep’s role is to represent TradeTools when visiting builders, businesses, communities, or wherever the lead comes from. He might head out as far as the Torres Strait Islands, or to Weipa. Wherever he sees demand and opportunity for business, we will support him in that.”

Looking ahead, Jeremy said the store will continue to push hard to expand.

“TradeTools has another new store opening planned for this calendar year at Browns Plains, and if we can squeeze a second store opening in this year, we will, but the location is under wraps at the moment,” he said.