Quality is a click away at The Renovator Store. Launched in 2013 to offset competitive retail pricing, Scott Pendlebury and his associates have worked hard to provide designer fittings and fixtures at an affordable price. Over the last three years, they have managed to become the largest pure online source for residential building fixtures in Australia, while still managing to maintain a low-cost, reciprocated business model for suppliers, staff and clients. “We’ve done some pretty innovative strategies in terms of offshoring and outsourcing so that we can just focus on what we do best, which is sourcing and stocking the best products, and providing customer service,” he says. “Everyone has a view on what they want their bathroom or kitchen to look like, and picking those fittings and fixtures is a very passionate hobby of the average Australian homeowner.
We’re very focused on ensuring our range of fittings and fixtures is at the upper end of quality, and we try to keep the latest styles as well. At the same time, we can have all the good products, but you’ve also got to understand that the average homeowner or customer only shops for these types of products probably two or three times in their life. Unless you’re a serial renovator, most people don’t have a lot of experience when they go out to buy a tap, a sink, or LED lights, so we’re quite prepared to offer a lot of assistance in their journey as they renovate their house. For instance, we run a blog, we have a large service team that takes a lot of questions, and we help them through the steps of how they might go about picking and choosing what they’re after. We think that service approach is appreciated by that audience and, invariably, they shop with us a couple of times, get a lot of value from it, and come back.”
In addition to affordability, The Renovator Store also has extensive knowledge in regards to efficient and sustainable products; their staff are well-versed in environmentally efficient alternatives – such as stainless steel or their staple LED lighting – for their more conscious clients. “We are a product sourcer, so we try not to just go to a supplier and resale their products,” says Pendlebury. “We’re actually going right to the manufacturers and the factories and, in some cases, designing products with them that we think are right for our customers. A lot of these factories are around the world, and when we visit them, we’re aware of the environmental impact that the products we purchase might have. We look for ROHS compliance. Our electrical products, such as LED lights, our copper speaker cables and our heated rails all have ROHS compliance, which means that the manufacturing processes have been certified as environmentally friendly. We could certainly source them elsewhere, not have that compliance, and save some money; but, it’s important to us that we get that on our products.
If people are looking for tapware and they’re asking questions about the environmental impact, we steer them towards stainless steel tapware – which we specialise in. The whole chroming process for tapware and bathroom accessories is very bad for the environment. We have chrome products because it’s very standard, but we try to steer customers towards stainless steel, which is a friendlier manufacturing process. Once they understand that, that’s what they go for. We only stock LED lights – we don’t stock traditional incandescent or halogen lights. We think that LED is a very important part of sustainability in Australia and New Zealand. It’s a pretty simple concept; an LED saves about 90 percent of the power that traditional lights use. Of course that’s a big energy saving, plus, if people opt for quality fittings, they should last in the house forever. So, there’s a lot of energy saving there, and there’s far less maintenance involved. That’s another thing we push with our customers.”
Unlike most showrooms, The Renovator Store is pure online so it doesn’t incur the costs of retail infrastructure, and therefore does not charge retail margins. In addition, where possible they directly purchase their products from the primary manufacturer which cuts out all the middle-men that demand a margin in a traditional supply chain. These two factors usually reduce product prices by an average of 40 to 60 percent for the same product offered in a traditional retail store setting. “As a direct purchaser, we do everything we can to avoid any middlemen,” says Pendlebury. “We’re not sourcing products from a local supplier who’s gone through an agent, who’s gone through an importer, who’s gone through a brand house. We’re finding out where the best products are made and going and buying them by the thousands, bringing them to Australia, and stocking them. So, the pricing we’re paying is the raw manufacturing price, and that means that we’re not passing on a bunch of margins that have been collected along the way. We can have a very different price to some of our retailers that can sometimes be confusing to the market; but, I think that every one is starting to understand the power of online shopping form direct purchasers.” They’re staking up the market, they’re agitating the market, and changes are happening.
Pendlebury and his associates have also taken the initiative to pass these benefits onto Ladder, an Australian charity that focuses on providing guidance for homeless teens throughout the continent. The Renovator Store donates one dollar from every sale to the charity, as well as another additional dollar for each service review. “We recognise that our typical customer, by definition, is a homeowner, and they’re lucky enough to be improving a home or building a home,” he says. “That’s a privilege and we’re mindful that. At the same time, homelessness is a big issue in Australia. It doesn’t sound like much, but it does add up, and Ladder is appreciative.”
The Renovator Store has strived to make a constant effort to pass the savings on wherever possible; honest pricing and innovation are two qualities they plan to uphold throughout each of their practices, in order or provide their clients with confidence and peace of mind with their purchases. “For a lot of our competitors, their approach is you price a product to what you can get away with,” says Pendlebury. “We’re very different; we price it with an honest margin in there. We really try to bring out new products and ranges at prices that make them affordable, and we try to get a reputation for that. We often have a discussion with customers that price doesn’t necessarily correlate with quality, and we spend a lot of time highlighting to people that just because they see a kitchen sink for $2,000 in a retailer doesn’t mean they can’t buy the same one for $500. They can sometimes struggle with that, but it really just comes down to honest pricing in a lot of the cases. The $2,000 product is not honestly priced.”
Ultimately, The Renovator Store follows a specific trifecta regarding relationships with suppliers, staff, and clients. Pendlebury divides these relationships into separate steps to success – each providing their own contribution to the success of The Renovator Store and the satisfaction of each party. “We go all the way back to where products are manufactured and develop our relationship there,” he says. “It’s critical that we have a great relationship with those suppliers; it fosters innovation with them. We try to get improvements made on products, improvements in packaging – and that all translates to price, durability of the product, and the warranty. We want people to install these fixtures and not have any problems. So, we maintain excellent relationships with about 30 suppliers that we have around the world. Some of them are very big companies, and they probably see us as a small customer of theirs, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t go and have a great relationship with them.
I honestly believe that unless the staff truly believe in what they’re selling, it’s just not genuine. So, we’ve got a lot of staff here who comment that they’ve come from different companies and service backgrounds, and they say the job is so much easier if you actually believe in what you’re selling. It comes across far more natural when they’re talking to customers that they can actually genuinely say that ‘this product is good because of X, Y, and Z,’ and they can talk confidently about the price, than someone in a showroom who’s having to do a sales pitch on everything they do. So, getting that buy-in from our staff on our products and services is core to our business, and then that translates all the way to customer satisfaction.
We just try to have a genuine relationship with our clients. We’re very transparent. A lot of people ask where something is made – they’re scared if it’s made in China. We immediately tell them exactly where it’s made, who it’s made by, how it’s made, why it’s one of the best manufacturers, and we highlight that some of the best products in the world are made in China and we’ve got access to them. They get fed a lot of different information from a lot of other retailers, and a lot of it is not always true. So, when it comes to clients, transparency and honesty is core to the relationship we try to build with them.”
Unfortunately, not all businesses possess the same commitment to transparency – an issue that Pendlebury believes will affect the future of the industry. “It’s very easy now for someone to jump onto Google and see a range of products at a range of prices,” he says. “They can shop around the world in minutes, and retailers need to understand that people are far more informed that they might have been five or 10 years ago. Retailers and product providers that are fully transparent will benefit from that; they’ll embrace the shopper’s requirements and understand that you can’t hide anything from them. You should open up, show them as much detail, and disclose your price and how you came to it.
It’s a bizarre industry at the moment. If people are shopping for a kitchen sink or a kitchen tap, they’re very confused that you can buy a tap for $50 or, in some cases, it’s well over $2,000. What’s the difference? To help them make a decision, you’ve just got to provide transparency so that they can weigh up the pros and cons of different specifications, and know that they’re not overpaying for something. People don’t like to overpay, so if it’s not transparent and they’re not fully informed about their decision, they’ll go elsewhere. We’re embracing that need to be transparent.”
Spending over 20 years as an investment banker, Pendlebury has had access to a variety of different business strategies. Before providing his services to The Renovator Store, he helped organise a residential property fund in the United States involving the purchase and renovation of over 100 houses; the process provided insight into building material costs between countries, and allowed him to help structure the business around affordability of products through an online service. “In Australia, we seem to be paying way too much, and there’s an obvious business opportunity to enter that market and agitate it. But, I also have a very personal interest in renovations and home improvement, and efficient business models. I’ve seen thousands of businesses and seen how different management groups have run their businesses, so I really want to grow this company with a very efficient business model. We’re a product and service company, so we don’t need to be a logistics company – we outsource that. We don’t need to be a warehouser – we outsource that. We don’t need to build websites, just operate them – we outsource that. All of our staff are focused on product, service and customer satisfaction. Anything else that supports that which is not part of our core expertise, we outsource it; that helps keep our costs down, which just translates to better prices for our customer.
We often hear the age old saying, ‘you get what you pay for.’ That is a question that comes up quite a bit, because they’re looking at our product and asking “why is it so much cheaper?” We ask them to dissect exactly what they’re paying for when they go to a traditional retailer. You do get what you pay for – we agree with that. But, sometimes when you’re paying for a product, you’re not just getting the product. When you boil it all down the product could just be part of the price – you pay a margin for a lot of traditional retail infrastructure and the risks that go with it. So, I think people are now getting smarter and they understand when you look at something, the price isn’t necessarily just for the product. The online retailing industry is very mature in areas like fashion where you can look at the same item in a department store or online, and it’s cheaper online. That’s not a quality issue with the product, it’s a different sales delivery mechanism – and you don’t have to pay for the department store rent and staff. When you think about ‘you get what you pay for,’ you’re paying for a lot more things than the product, in many cases.”