Celebrating 50 years of service to the building industry
Five decades ago Walter MacGregor was dubbed the ‘Pittwater Pioneer’. Since then he has employed, literally, thousands of people in a successful and expanding business.
The 88-year-old admits he’s proud of this but, for him, gratitude is the most important message on the celebration of Hardware & General’s 50th birthday. “I thrived on the challenge of running the business,” Walter said “and I’d like to thank my children for going into the business and for all the support they give me.”
Walter retired in November 2008 after 48 years at Hardware & General and his five children and some of their spouses and children work in the business today, ensuring the company’s fine reputation is upheld.
Asked to nominate his proudest achievement, Walter said the most satisfying aspect was the business turnover had grown in every year since they started except for two years. “I’m also very happy that we have never had to retrench an employee due to economic conditions. If I had known how much the business would grow I think I would have been frightened. Three hundred and twenty employees – now that’s a lot.”
Walter still lives in Oxford Falls where he went to school as a boy and where his father took up residence in 1911, 100 years ago. He married his wife, Audrey, in 1952 and it was Audrey who found the initial site for Hardware & General in Brookvale when she spotted an advertisement in the Manly Daily newspaper saying the Craig’s Building Supplies was for sale.
Prior to his H&G days, Walter was a secretary for two gold mining companies operating in New Guinea. When the gold mining companies voluntarily wound up, two of the Directors offered to help him find another job or go into business with him. Having been a quartermaster Sergeant in the army in World War II and responsible for the stores, Walter said the business of hardware just made sense to him.
The business began with five employees and today the four branches – in Sydney’s north at Mona Vale, south at Peakhurst and west in Marayong – and 20 speciality departments in the Brookvale branch alone employ around 320 people. Customer service has been at the heart of the business from the start and the initial operation sold a comprehensive range of general hardware and paint. When Hardware & General took over, the store had £10,000 worth of stock – which, back then, was a considerable investment.
A prime offering to Hardware & General customers is a free next day delivery service to all parts of Sydney in metropolitan area. In fact when the business started in 1960 the first delivery was made before the doors even opened. To celebrate this service, Hardware & General have purchased and restored a 1960 Bedford truck and stands today as a symbol of Hardware & General’s commitment to their customers.
Hardware & General has led the way in the supply of building products and achieved many Australian firsts. Hardware & General is the first company to not only sell Makita power tools north of the Parramatta River but also to create a stand-alone tap shop and stock bulk supplies of taps which means no delays for customers.
In 2000, just prior to the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), Hardware & General struck up a business partnership with Sterland when they installed their software ProStix, a package designed specifically to meet the needs of the building supplies industry. Sterland has provided ongoing support and guidance since implementation. Initially one area of focus was on improving their Stock Level Management and Sterland are currently working on reviewing their usage of ProStix to ensure they maximise the functionality & efficiencies that ProStix provides.
Now that environmental concerns are key to customer’s purchasing decisions, Hardware & General has created a green choice logo to help customers identify products that are the best energy & water efficient products in store.
The company continues to thrive. In 2009 the company opened a Lighting and Electrical Store and a Betta Electrical franchise at 728 Pittwater Road Brookvale which sells everything electrical and digital including televisions, sound systems, and even cameras.
Hardware & General are very proud of their 50 year milestone, and are looking forward to building the future together.