07/12/2004 - 21:00

Boros defied conventional pathway in retail journey

07/12/2004 - 21:00


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WESFARMERS chief Michael Chaney describes Joe Boros as one of the country’s best retailers.

Boros defied conventional pathway in retail journey

WESFARMERS chief Michael Chaney describes Joe Boros as one of the country’s best retailers.

Mr Boros led the Bunnings group for more than two decades, managing the integration of Alco and Howard Smith’s BBC chain, and growing Bunnings into Wesfarmers’ most profitable business unit.

Mr Boros is pretty clear about what it takes to achieve success in retailing.

It’s knowing the business, knowing the customer, respecting employees, and continually evolving and growing the business, he says.

“I always regard the most essential ingredient is knowing what business you are in and what your customers want,” Mr Boros told WA Business News.

“You have to back it up with a balanced business and everything has to be right in the business for it to be a success.”

Mr Boros said all facets of the business – from location to what’s on the shelves to how it’s served to the customer – had to be executed perfectly to the appropriate target market. 

“You need to think about location and what location suits the business,” he said. “We were doing DIY, so we thought we would be better off having free-standing stores that could keep our costs down and made sure customers had good access because there are a lot of big bulky products, so there was no point being in the middle of a shopping centre.

“The product range has to be right but there has to be margin management. That’s the key issue. You can give things away and your sales will be fantastic, but having pricing management and product management is all part of good retailing.”

Mr Boros said being innovative in retail was important but retailers needed to assess how to incorporate new ideas in order to change the traditional conventions under which they were operating.

“Offering customer service in our business, putting people at the paint counter or at the plumbing section who could give advice to customers breached normal conventions,” he said. 

“Usually in low margin, low-price businesses you can’t afford to give a high level of customer service.

“We differentiated ourselves from our competitors and picked up market share. Hardware House ran a traditional model. They had bigger stores and more products but a traditional service level. When we acquired them we changed that and achieved 70 per cent out-performance because we defied the convention.”

Mr Boros said respecting the worker on the check-out as the financial controller was something too few people were doing.

“You have to treat people with respect and with equal respect; that’s critical. Not all companies do that,” he said. “But it doesn’t mater what position someone has, people need to be treated equally and everyone is important. The guy on the floor has a job to do just like someone in senior management, but that’s what teamwork is.

“If one person doesn’t do their job well it can all come undone, so I think a lot of people need to get off their high horse and get rid of the hierarchy and get down to business and treat people with respect, because people make it happen.”

Mr Boros said travelling the world seeking out new ideas kept Bunnings one-step-ahead of the competition.

“You’ve got to travel and be aware of what’s happening around the world. We spent years researching and coming up with the ideas and modelled our offering on Home Depot in America,” he said. 

“You can’t sit still, you either grow or die.”



  • Understand the business you are operating and understand what the customers want.
  • Respect every employee equally.
  • Travel internationally to seek out new ideas.
  • Implement good buying strategies that are backed with good margin management practices. 
  • Never sit still, the business has to evolve and grow.
  • Location an important aspect of a business’s success.


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