The introduction of Big Box hardware stores into the Australia hardware sector has made a huge impact on the hardware industry as a whole.

So what does a small to medium hardware store with the unenviable position of dwindling customer numbers, falling sales figures, and diminishing return – all brought on by the onset of the Big Box hardware store competitors – do in the current marketplace?

The answer is quite simple – think ‘outside the box’. And that is exactly what Mitre 10 Blacktown hardware store did.

“The Big Box hardware store concept is here to stay,” says Mitre 10 Blacktown general manager, Gary Attard.

“We can either compete head on with these guys, or we can look for an innovative approach of not only retaining existing customers but attracting new customers back to our store.”

That innovative approach has successfully seen the collaboration of two experts in different industries – but serving identical target markets – form a strategic alliance to launch Australia’s biggest hardware and hire location.

“The hire industry in recent years has seen a similar change as in the hardware industry. The bigger competitors too, are beginning to dominate the marketplace. As I see it, the smaller players in the equipment hire industry have two choices: either take those companies head on, or look at ways to value add to their services through a unique and different model, to offer something to customers that no other hire company can offer,” says Attard.

This ‘out of the box’ thinking has seen Mitre 10 Blacktown and their local equipment hire company, The Rental Depot, merge into one convenient location, which offers value added services and products to both existing customers and prospective new customers.

“The one-stop-shop concept is not new, and there is another hardware chain that is currently doing hire within their premises. The difference here though is we are not a hardware store trying to be a hire company or vice versa. We are two independent experts who both excel at what we do, combining to offer the best value added services to the same clientele…,” says David Caruso, managing director of The Rental Depot.

If you can not and choose not to compete on price, offering both clients and prospective clients value added services is the best way to compete in a hotly competitive market.

“The Rental Depot store in Blacktown is currently being developed as the first equipment hire franchised model based in a hardware store and we will be looking to drop these stores into other hardware locations throughout Australia,” says Caruso.

The Rental Depot franchise concept is designed to drop into any sized hardware store – big or small. The Rental Depot team initially does a feasibility study of the area around the hardware store and confidently outlines what size will best suit the area and the equipment, which will be most sought by existing and prospective customers.

“It is a pretty intense survey and study, which then gets transformed into a solid business and marketing plan” says Caruso.

“We talk about dropping the store, and that is exactly what we do. We drop in The Rental Depot with the least amount of interruption to the existing hardware location.”

“The benefits to the existing hardware store are numerous. Beside the extra traffic through the door, they are able to offer existing clientele another valuable expert service,” he adds.