A Newsletter for Indepet Shareholders, Staff, Wholesalers & Suppliers.
"Quality Pet Products, Huge Range at Low Prices"


Award-winning family business, WB Hunter Shepparton in the heart of the Goulburn Valley, has just celebrated its first year in a new superstore where an Indepet outlet has been added to the retail mix.
One of Victoria’s most familiar business names in rural merchandise and trade supplies, WB Hunter was founded in 1947 by William Birchall Hunter.
From its base in Shepparton, it has evolved into a retail network servicing rural Victoria and New South Wales with stores in Corowa, Echuca, Euroa, Katandra, Tatura, Wangaratta and Yarrawonga.
Last October, the team at Shepparton reaffirmed their status as independent retailing professionals, taking home the 2012 Hardware Association of Victoria Store of the Year award.
Managing director of WB Hunter, Michael Moroney, believes that incorporating an Indepet outlet into the new store complex has proved extremely beneficial.
“Indepet is part of the overall store so it was part of the reason we won the award,” said Michael.
“The judges came through and examined the whole store. If our Indepet section wasn’t up to scratch, then we wouldn’t have received that award.”
“There’s a lot more customers coming through now,” he said. “We’ve noticed an increase of clientele from the town. Before that we had mainly farming and trade customers,” he said. “With the pet business there are probably 10 to 12 extra suppliers we’ve added to our books.”
Michael said the store was moved from a 2,000 square metre store in central Shepparton to a 7,600 square metre greenfield site, adjacent to one of the town’s larger shopping complexes on the town’s outskirts.
“At the old store, parking was an issue and we didn’t have enough shop space to add new products,” said Michael. “We only had a quarter of the room, so we just didn’t have the exposure we needed to our maximise sales potential.
“Since opening, we’ve seen our sales increase by 65 to 70 per cent,” he said. “It helps being dual branded with Indepet because people can associate with the new Indepet name and with a brand they already know and trust.”
To service the store, Michael has doubled staff numbers to around 50 across the three divisions of hardware supplies, rural merchandise and pet essentials.
While benefitting from being an Indepet Shareholder, Hunters is also aligned with the NRI rural independent group. Michael believes that this dual partnership with the independent groups allows the store to attract customers with multiple needs.
“We have a lot of trade customers for example who have pets. They’re buying dog food, cat food or bird seed. If they’re coming in to buy materials, it’s so easy for them to go over and buy whatever they might need for a pet,” said Michael.
“In a nutshell, it’s about diversity. People come in to buy hardware and 70 per cent of them have pets. We also have account customers, so they just book it all up, which makes it easier for them.”
Independent strength
Michael said the business kept its customers returning because it had the ability to think and act like an independent, a point of difference that helped him tackle the competition.
“Being local strengthens the brand. We have local input into the community,” he said. “There will always be big chain stores in any town. Yes we are competing with multi-nationals but our strength is that we can make decisions on the spot. We also sponsor various charities and organisations; multi-nationals are less likely to do that.”
One tip Michael offers to Indepet Shareholders is to adopt a system similar to WB Hunter’s loyalty program, where the customer is given a scan-able keyring. Each time they buy at the store, they get a discount for future use, which entices them to come back again and again.
“Rather than give the discount upfront, it comes off at the next purchase,” said Michael. “That encourages people to keep shopping with us because every time they come in after the initial sale, they have points accruing. If they want, they can leave those points to build up until it gets to a fairly sizeable amount.”
For those starting out as independent retailers, Michael points to the power of a store’s location in the community.
“To be honest, a supermarket has normally done its homework on locations,” he said. “So ideally you want to be situated near a major complex with a supermarket. That’s the main thing I would be suggesting if I was looking at a new business.”
Time-saving technology
Michael believes another advantage of WB Hunter’s newest store is the state of the art technology used to keep prices accurate while saving time and labour.
“Basically it works off our computer system, so when it’s updated it beams prices down to the electronic tags. The beauty of that is you can manage your margins,” Michael said. “When you’ve got a catalogue, you can actually set all the pricing for midnight on the first day the promotion begins.
“It then reverts back to normal pricing when the promotion is over. Or if you need to increase pricing by a certain percentage, you can go through and do a whole category at once.
“The computer price and the shelf price can’t be different. They talk to each other,” he said. “Whereas with the old system, you might have a label there with $50 and the computer might say $65. We reckon the amount of time saved on price checking and the like is about one and a half staff members.”
Tribute to people
WB Hunter in Shepparton can attribute much of its success to its workers from many different fields, who have come together under this independent business to achieve great outcomes.
“Laura manages the pet side of the business. She’s trained in that division. We recruited staff from all different industries,” said Michael.
“They’ve all had some sort of pet background, whether it be retail or vet nursing. We’ve even got a staff member who’s come from the horse industry working with local trainers.
“It’s been great for our larger animal business. All of our people help us attract customers beca.use of their knowledge, expertise and local connections," he said.

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