Meet the new and improved Tradelink

Tradelink-2096Tradelink has unveiled its ‘branch of the future’ – the total interior redesign of its stores, encompassing a full rebrand that includes the store’s exterior fascia.

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Of the 210 Tradelink stores throughout Australia, 15 have been revamped so far, including the five branches in the ACT, as part of the pilot project to test the concept, before rolling it out to other branches.

While the redesign schedule is still being finalised, Tradelink project director, Gillon Aitken, told Inside Retail Weekly that the plan is to roll out this new concept to, “a lot more of its branches in the coming years”.

The store redesign offers a more user-friendly experience for customers by enabling easier navigation and accessible product display, as well as clearer signage, explained Kristina Hetherington, MD of Design Clarity, creator of the redesign.

This involved lowering the height of all the units across the retail floor to enable clear visibility, so customers can see where all the different product lines and categories are located. The project was a two-part process of introducing a showroom model – called ‘on-show’ for end user customers and tradesmen’s clients – plus restructuring the trade retail area for plumbers, contractors and other tradesmen.

A new direction for the sector had been necessary, Hetherington noted. “The traditional model of the ‘hardware warehouse’ hasn’t evolved in line with the demands of the trade market,” she told Inside Retail Weekly.

Now, all fixtures in the new store design are on an angle, so that when customers view them from the entry, they see the maximum amount of product.

“They’re angled towards you, like they’re on view; it’s not straight lines so that you just see aisles,” Hetherington explained. “You actually see the product facing you.”

The previous design had narrow aisles with straight rows of full height shelves running down.

“It’s a total overhaul,” Hetherington enthused. “Previously, the counter was all you saw. So you walked in and there was a counter, then there was a wall – and all the product was behind the wall. So we’re bringing the general merchandise items into the front of house for the customer to ‘grab and go’.”

The sales service desk was another major focus, as it is the hub of trade retail. “A lot of the staff work at that; it needed to face in all directions and be multifunctional – that’s quite a key component,” Hetherington observed.

Typical store footprints are 800-1000sqm, which incorporates office space as well as retail and warehousing areas.

“We have established the core range, which needs to go in front of house,” Aitken said. “So the typical size for retail space in front in the regional ones is 150sqm to 200sqm.”

There is also a mix of sites, ranging from smaller 50sqm to larger 250sqm.

Tradelink show room1950

Heavy duty
Tradelink’s core customers are tradies, who can be ‘hard markers’ when it comes to building design. Previously, as a lot of laminates were incorporated, they’d take issue with how interiors would suffer damage. Now, the trade retail section of the design has been made to withstand the hard knocks – literally!

“We’ve introduced concrete blocks for skirting so that their steel caps can kick into them, solid timber detailing on counters, and raw concrete floors,” Hetherington said.

The décor is also mainly raw and natural in colour and materials, except for the blue brand colour that’s incorporated through the space.

“The difference between the on-show and the trade retail is, the on-show is designed more as a gallery space and selling space – a showroom, so we’ve introduced black ceilings. It is a bit more upmarket,” she said.

Formerly, the warehouse was quite disconnected from the retail space. The redesign provides it with visibility. Customers can now see through big open panels or glass windows and get the whole behind the scenes picture. Hetherington said this is important because what is on the trade retail floor is only a very small percentage of what is actually on offer.

Another new element is the ‘know-how bar’ – a space for customers, staff and suppliers to use for work and research. There’s a digital presence via a large LCD screen that informs about products, while iPads, laptops and phones can be easily connected and recharged. Feedback from customers reveals another important drawcard: “The coffee is fantastic – and that is a real priority for them,” Aitken added.

Tradelink is also focusing on customers’ online experience, especially linking the website with instore visits – for example, the click and collect option that’s been introduced. This dedicated pick-up area is one of the first things visible from entry points to make it easier for people to locate.

Tradelink has been in the industry for over 150 years and this ‘next-generation’ project is, according to Hetherington, groundbreaking in the market.

“It was a significant piece of work,” she said. “Some of the staff were so emotional – it was such a life changing experience for them to walk into these sites that were totally transformed. It’s made a real difference to them.”

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