Member Profile: Paul Stewart, Barrow & Bench Mitre 10

Member Profile: Paul Stewart, Barrow & Bench Mitre 10

Each month we will be interviewing our board and members to find out more about them and where they see the future of the hardware industry in Australia. This month we had a virtual catch up with our Chair Paul Stewart, who together with his wife Amanda owns Barrow & Bench Mitre 10 in South Australia.


How did you get into the Hardware industry?

I have been immersed in the hardware industry since childhood.  My father was a carpenter, later establishing a hardware store.  Like the children of many family businesses, I worked in the shop as a school student.  With no intention of a career in retail, I undertook a carpentry apprenticeship and then worked for myself for around 5 years. When I received a phone call from Dad offering me a job, I realised how much I missed the social aspect of working with people.  Six years ago, in 2013,  I purchased the business with my wife Amanda. We now employ around 40 personnel, ranging from salaried full time staff, to school students who work as casuals for stock fill.


Do you have one area of the business that is more successful? If so, what do you think makes it better than others?

Our garden department is certainly the strongest part of our business.  Homeowners in our demographic take great pride in their gardens.  We fill a niche market offering plants across all price points from cheap and cheerful potted colour, through to advanced trees and clipped topiary.  Our garden department adapts quickly to changing trends and customer requirements.  For example, in the last 5-6 years, we have expanded our range of indoor pots and plants, as well as our organic garden care options.


What’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your business?

A constant challenge in our business is the staff.  Finding the right people; keeping them; communicating to them and inspiring them to keep helping others, even when times are difficult isn’t always easy.  Keeping abreast of workplace legislation, OH&S, training, and so on are all part of that challenge. I would have to say operating throughout the COVID 19 pandemic has also had its challenges.  In the early days, before strict health guidelines were introduced, keeping staff and customers safe was a huge concern to us.


What is the one business tip you would like to pass onto other hardware store owners and managers?

Talk to other people within the industry, either at a state level if you are comfortable, or to people interstate. Understand that others do things differently, and seek to find out how and why they do that.  Likewise, share the things that work for you with others, and be generous with your time.  Just one idea out of ten shared could save you time and money.


When did you join the Hardware Australia committee?

I was invited to join the SA State Committee (HASA) around 2005. In 2011 took over the role as President of that committee from the very capable Rod Evins. As President of the HASA, I sat on the Board of HA (formerly known as HFA).  I have remained on the Board, in various capacities, since 2011.

Where do you see the future of the hardware industry?

Helping people find solutions to home renovation and maintenance remains integral to living in a property, whether you own it or not.

I believe there will always be a need for home hardware and DIY solutions in one form or another.  As a business, I feel we need to continually challenge ourselves and the way we operate.  It’s important to look at our competitors, and at how other industries are managing these challenges.    Of course, hardware, like all industries, needs to be receptive to the changing needs of their customers.   At the moment having a strong presence online, together with trusted advice in store, allows you to help people find solutions to their problems.


What do you think is the biggest benefit of being a member of HA?

There are many benefits in being a member, and it’s very hard to list one, so I will keep it short and list a few

  • Networking – As I mentioned before talking to other people in your industry is extremely valuable. I believe ‘People need People’. It’s where we get our energy, our ideas, and our support.
  • Having easy access to some basic legal advice is important – there is no excuse for not understanding the awards our industry operates under.
  • Being part of an industry body gives us strength so that we can have an impact with our decision making.


What do you get up to in your downtime?

When I am not working on our hobby farm, you will generally find me mountain biking or trail running my way across the Adelaide Hills.    In the warmer weather, when the wind is just right, I try to get to the beach for a spot of windsurfing.

If you could change something in the world, what would it be?

Tolerance of other people’s views.


Are you involved in any other community organisations?

When our children were younger I was very involved in local sporting clubs, however, my Hardware Australia obligations remain my only community commitment at the moment. This allows me to work on the imminent upgrade of our own store, and to focus on our business after Bunnings opened their largest store in Australia just 10 minutes drive away.

Trio’s HARDAZ retaining wall system

Trio’s HARDAZ retaining wall system

The DIY market is in high demand, Trio’s HARDAZ retaining wall system is the perfect product to help your DYI customers.


The Trio HARDAZ retaining wall system is an easy solution to spruce up your outdoor area. Whether you are looking to plant some new blooms, create a play pit for the kids or grow some veggies, HARDAZ is the solution.  Trio’s HARDAZ retaining wall systems are heavy duty with a galvanised steel finish, providing a neat and solid timber wall every time. With no need for fastening or drilling, anyone can take on such a project in their own home. The range is suitable for both 50mm and 75mm-wide sleepers and can be adapted to build walls up to five sleepers high.  This extensive range includes corner posts that allow for a perfect right angle fit every time, joiners and end posts, for straight line retaining walls, stakes to secure timber borders, ideal for garden beds and providing extra strength where required, it also includes pegs and supports for creating the perfect 90 degree corner. Your outdoor makeover has never been easier with HARDAZ.

Proposed acquisition of Total Tools by Metcash Limited (IHG)

Proposed acquisition of Total Tools by Metcash Limited (IHG)

Metcash Limited (Independent Hardware Group) has entered the final stage of negotiations to acquire 70% of Total Tools Holdings (TTH) with an option to acquire the remaining stake at a later date.
TTH is the franchisor to the largest professional tool retail networks in Australia with 81 Total Tools-branded stores nationwide, generating ~$555m in sales annually. TTH operates in the commercial trade market, partnering with leading local and global brands of tools, accessories, consumables and specialist equipment, true to its motto “Every Tool, Every Trade”. TTH has been operating for over 30 years servicing the professional trades market.
The proposed acquisition will include the TTH franchisor operations and a company owned store in Moorabbin, Victoria. Consistent with IHG’s successful network strategy today, Metcash would intend, over time, to adopt a mix of store ownership within TTH, including both independently owned and joint venture stores.
Metcash believe the rationale for acquiring Total Tools is compelling as it:

  • Aligns with Metcash’s strategy to be the leading supplier to independents in each of its three pillars – Food, Liquor and Hardware
  • Enhances Metcash’s position in the Australian hardware market which will benefit independent retailers in both Total Tools and the Independent Hardware Group
  • Increases Metcash’s exposure to trade customers
  • Supports Total Tools’ vision to remain a leading professional tool retail network
  • Strengthens both Metcash’s and Total Tools’ existing independent networks
  • Result in significant value creation opportunities and synergies

It is important to note that the transaction is subject to approval by the ACCC. Metcash can give no assurances at this stage as to whether the discussions will lead to a binding transaction.
The interests and values of IHG and TTH are closely aligned. Metcash believe a successful transaction will enable the combined group to be stronger, more efficient, more competitive and better able to serve both businesses customers and communities. Metcash’s objective remains to Build Successful Independents and to grow a vibrant independent hardware sector for the long term.
You can view the ASX announcement HERE

Lease Negotiations: a guide to help you get a better deal

Lease Negotiations: a guide to help you get a better deal

With rental payments representing a significant overhead for tenants, as well as a source of income for landlords, understanding the intricacies for your business is challenging. Our partners, Business Australia have created resources to help provide information and advice on rent relief, lease negotiations and how to interpret the National Commercial Leasing Code of Conduct to help support businesses.

Whether you’re already eligible for rental relief under the COVID-19 Code of Conduct for Commercial Tenancies or you’re preparing for a possible downturn in sales, negotiating your lease can be a daunting exercise. This 10 step lease negotiation guide will help you to understand your eligibility and rights as a tenant under the COVID-19 Rental Relief code and how to recognise the commercial motivations of your landlord to negotiate a better deal for your business.

The 10 step guide covers:

  1. Understand your rights under the COVID-19 Code
  2. Understand your landlord’s commercial motivations
  3. Research your current market rent
  4. Look at the local area
  5. Understand your sustainable occupancy cost
  6. Reach out to your landlord to book a meeting
  7. Pick a suitable setting and think about your style
  8. The negotiation tactics
  9. Formalise the new lease or lease variation
  10. In dispute?

Members can download their guide on the members portal