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From the building professionals to the weekend DIYer and everyone in between, Sunshine Mitre 10 is Queensland’s hardware go-to — and it’s growing by leaps and bounds

sunshine mitre 10, the venture magazineThe sun shines bright for Queensland’s builders, renovators, and DIYers, thanks to the state’s most innovative and driven hardware group, Sunshine Mitre 10. Established in Nambour in 1910, the Metcash-owned group boasts annual sales of $140 million across 19 stores. The dynamic firm provides customers with all the building supplies they need under one roof, whether they are DIY renovators, home builders, multi-residential developers, or commercial developers.

According to CEO Travis Cunnane, “The business has shown tremendous growth over the past five to six years, with our profits up over 125%.” Sunshine Mitre 10 is already one of the largest trade players nationally, as well as the country’s largest Mitre 10 group. “Our goal is to be the dominant building trade retailer in the regions that we operate.”

About 70% of the business is trade; the rest is retail and DIY. “We're particularly strong in the trade sector. We've invested heavily in our people, especially around our sales and customer support teams. We also focus heavily on trade customer loyalty and recognition. This includes holding one of the largest retail and trade hardware expos in Australia, an event that attracts over 1500 of our customers annually, so it’s fair to say we do a lot of things that keep us well connected to the customer.” The most recent expo attracted 90 suppliers and over $1 million in sales for the business.

Always a driver for innovation, Sunshine Mitre 10 has introduced a new Whole of House initiative which aims to supply as much of every build as possible. Whole of House is designed to position the company as a single source provider for every project, regardless of size or scope. “We have been on an aggressive growth path that has seen us go from six stores just five years ago, to 19 stores now with the addition of our newest store in the heart of the Brisbane CBD,” Cunnane noted. “Annual individual store sales range from $2 million to $40 million annually.

Sunshine Mitre 10 is dynamic in its approach with the power of the Independent Hardware Group (IHG) and Metcash majority ownership and the strong family and community values built over its 109-year history.

sunshine mitre 10, the venture magazine“We employ local people in all the communities where we operate, and our structure means all our people are empowered to invest their experience, time, and energy to improve the business in a meaningful way that isn’t possible in more traditionally structured businesses of a similar or larger size. We don't try to put any impediments in front of staff, and we empower staff to improve the business,” Mr Cunnane said.

With state-of-the-art technologies built into business delivery, Sunshine Mitre 10 also delivers better customer service.

“Our trade customers have 24/7 access to their account online via the Sunshine Mitre 10 Trade Portal, with over 12,000 products online and access to their statements and invoices. We also have utilised technology such as Fleetmatics, 15Five, Phocas,  iAuditor, & Telstra Cloud. We were also one of the first businesses in Australia to shift to the cloud,” Cunnane said.

Truck Tracker, a GetSwift delivery app for the trades, uses SMS and map tracking to monitor our 25,000 trade deliveries annually, covering about 1.5 million kilometres. “That's been a real game-changer for us. It's also important for our customers because they can monitor orders and deliveries in real time so that they can better plan their own resources on sites.”

Building on a foundation of great relationships

sunshine mitre 10, the venture magazineThe firm’s offer to its trade customers in Queensland is unique. “All sites have dedicated trade drive-through service to allow customers to come into our stores and easily access the products they require with minimal time wasted,” Cunnane explained. “Ours is a service-based offer with multiple touch points: on building sites through our trade reps, in store, and electronically and verbally via the Customer Support Team.”

The group is an employer of choice within the communities it operates. “We employ locals with knowledge and experience that ensures our trade and retail customers get the right advice, but it also means those people are living in the communities and can relate directly to the other members of their communities.”

With over 400 staff spread across the state from Weipa in the north to Brisbane in the south and west to St George, communication is also key.

“We are committed to ensuring our staff know what is happening throughout the business and to assist with this last year, we rolled out a new continuous performance management app called 15Five that allows us to communicate better and faster with staff across our entire network,” he said. “We’re now able to be more responsive and provide faster recognition and as a consequence, we’ve seen a huge surge in peer-to-peer recognition, and it's improved visibility between managers and staff. We’re also now able to recognise and acknowledge all the great things that our people do every day.”

Attracting young people to careers in hardware is a passion for Cunnane. “We provide strong continuing training for our people and we particularly work to support good, young performers to see that there's a career in our company. We’re always actively looking to identify talent and provide a career path for them to progress through, creating opportunities for them to stay in their local rural and regional communities, where otherwise they would need to move away to seek career advancement.

“We've had staff that have worked their way up from the retail or trade floor to becoming trade sales reps, and others who have moved into head office or customer-support roles. We currently have managers in our business, who are in their mid to late 20s, running stores with $10-20 million plus turnover annually.

“We’ve also been working hard to recruit and promote more females in our business. For instance, we have two stores in Roma, and both our managers are female and doing an outstanding job. We are proud as well that at the annual Hardware Australia Awards, Sunshine Mitre 10 has won the Employee of the Year Award in 2018 and 2019, and both times it was a female employee from Sunshine Mitre 10 that won the award.”

sunshine mitre 10, the venture magazineBeing an active and supportive member of the community is integral to the company's DNA. “We believe strongly that you have to be involved in the communities where you operate. “We give a lot back to the community annually. We are heavily involved in supporting schools, kids and sporting programs, apprentices, and supporting our trade customers’ initiatives. Our staff love helping the next generation and see this as being pivotal for the success of our local communities. We're a really big part of the community,” he stressed. “But, it’s not about the publicity for us, we just like to support great causes that our staff are passionate about.”

2020 isn’t just the start of a new decade for Sunshine Mitre 10. The year marks the company’s 110th anniversary.

“I like to think we're in that special club of Australian businesses that have been around for over 100 years, which is an outstanding achievement,” Cunnane said. “But longevity isn’t guaranteed. There are a lot of cautionary tales like Kodak, Lehman Brothers, and Ansett here in Australia. You can't rest on your laurels. We constantly strive to do better than last year and keep improving, innovating and challenging ourselves. We're obviously very proud of our history and heritage, but this just strengthens our resolve to work harder to ensure success for us as a business, our people and the community into the future.”

It’s exactly that kind of clear-eyed determination that’s paving the way to another century of success for Sunshine Mitre 10.