Recently I visited the Preston e&s showroom in Melbourne’s outer north to celebrate the business’ sixth decade. Three brothers from the Sinclair family started the retail business - which specialises in kitchen, bathroom and laundry goods - from a single shop in High St, Ashburton in 1962.
It now has ten stores across Victoria and is run by Rob Sinclair, the family’s second generation. More Victorian showrooms are on the way plus a potential interstate expansion.
The celebration also marked their sixth decade banking with ANZ, which has backed the Sinclair family from the beginning.
The fact ANZ has had such a long relationship, through good times and bad, is illustrative of customer loyalty and a great example of both sides investing for the long term.
Walking the Preston showroom with Rob, I saw how the family is focused on growth while remaining committed to the strong customer service culture developed by his father and uncles.
“The guys really had this passion about building a business based upon the fundamentals of great customer service and only selling great quality products,” Rob says. “Customers come back to us ten, 20, 30 (years), in many cases even longer.”
He relates an illustrative story. “We had a lady with a 45-year-old dishwasher recently delighted with how long their products last. I think having a genuine, authentic and trustworthy sort of approach to the client is what's held us in good stead. We live and die by our relationships with clients,” Rob says.
“We're trying to understand their needs and make recommendations of only good quality products to suit their needs.”
In 1962, Rob’s father Bob was working with HT Palmers, an electrical retailer with a hundred stores up the east coast of Australia. His Uncle John was working with Kelvinator. The brothers knew they had the industry knowledge to make a go of it, so they opened that first store in Ashburton.
“By 1966 they were going well enough to have expanded already into a larger site … they really established the business with simple principles of always looking after the customer,” Rob says.
“We had an incredible halcyon period in the late sixties and early seventies as we were establishing the company.”
The company now employs about 350 staff, some of whom who have been with the business for more than two decades.
Rob says ANZ has backed the business even during the difficult periods, like launching a store at the Essendon DFO complex in 2008. Initially sales were not as strong as expected but with the bank’s support, not only did the store succeed but it eventually helped spur more expansion.
Innovation in showroom layout and design has given e&s staff a competitive edge when talking to customers, Rob says.
“I've had the great pleasure of moving around the world and seeing what best practices in our industry and both in the bath section as well as the kitchen section. So I'm really proud of what we've created here.”
The business is in the process of doubling the size of its Chadstone showroom and Rob is pondering expanding interstate.
Chatting with Rob I was struck by some similarities in our business strategies – e&s is at a pivotal point when people build and renovate their homes. And that is the core ANZ’s business too – helping people buy and own a sustainable, livable home.
Interestingly, I was an e&s customer many times before I even knew they were an ANZ customer. I saw first hand during our own home renovation the customer care, enthusiasm and pride Rob speaks so passionately about.
Shayne Elliott is CEO of ANZ.