The HPC Group have recently opened their new-concept TJ O’Mahony store in Naas, providing a one-stop Plumbing, Heating, Timber and Building Centre. The Hardware Journal takes this opportunity to talk to HPC Sales Managing Director Dennis O`Connor about this and other developments within the group.
Amazing what can be achieved with some decisive thinking and a strong team pulling out all the stops. In just eight weeks the team at HPC Group took an idea from the drawing board to reality, creating a new-concept store at Tougher’s Park in Naas, opening its doors on September 30th.
The Group’s 17th store brings together two of their top brands to offer the very best to the builder, plumber and serious DIYer. As Managing Director Dennis O’Connor explains, “TJ O’Mahony would be well known as both a Timber and Builders Merchant, and PH Ross (O’Mahonys sister brand), is well recognised in the Plumbing and Heating sector. Combined, they offer our customers a complete solution under one roof.”
Although branded as TJ O’Mahony, the spacious 20,000sq ft premises incorporates a dedicated Plumb centre branded as PH Ross.
The location could not be more convenient, just a few minutes off Junction 10 on the busy N7.
For all tradespeople or serious ‘Diyers’, time spent on site is key. “When designing our store in Naas we looked at numerous ways we could introduce a faster, smarter service in terms of store layout and operations.
The key word is ease; the ease with which customers are able to get in and out of the store, find what they need and get to work on the project.
Or as Dennis quipped: “our mantra sounds like a country and western song, we like to get them in, get them sorted and get them moving”.
So, every design element was scrutinised, and the question always asked, will this detail make the experience better? How much better? Having what the customer wants when they want it is critical to efficient service, so priority was given to intelligent stocking and display.
The HPC team drew upon their extensive experience with stock optimisation tools. Specialist product buyers worked closely with suppliers, to ensure the right ranges and the right sizes and quantities of goods within each range, would always be in stock.
Leading the change
TJ O’Mahony Naas is managed by Mark Doyle, who has been in the industry for over 25 years, joining HPC in 2006. Mark brings a wealth of industry expertise from a product and systems perspective and was instrumental in the design and build for the new store.
A summer job in Merchant Meade’s was Mark’s introduction to this sector. Even back then he was learning valuable lessons about how to optimise space and guarantee the products customers wanted were always available. This knowledge helped inform the planning process.
Mark started on the new store project in early summer 2020, basing himself in the Group’s sister store, TJ O’Mahony in Prosperous, Kildare.
The Naas store will continue to work closely with the Prosperous branch, sharing supplies in the event of a run on a product. If there is a supply shortage in Naas, back up stock can be fast-tracked from Prosperous.
Mark is ably assisted by highly skilled specialists who deliver expertise in both the Builders and Plumbers Merchant areas. Derek Dowdall is one of those skilled specialists. Derek is well known in the industry for his in-depth knowledge of the newer generation heating technologies. Most posts were filled internally; a sign that the investment the Group made in creating its own HPC Learning Academy is paying dividends.
The Academy was set up two years ago, to provide a dedicated in-house centre of learning and development. “Our aim was to use our own learnings and experiences as a valuable knowledge bank to share with new members when they join the company. This would also foster a culture of mentoring and passing on information throughout the organisation,” states Dennis.
When planning the Academy, “it was very important that we gave the Academy a physical presence, a fixed home”.The premises is based in Ballymount, in the upstairs of the Timber & Panel products facility.
Up until the Covid-19 pandemic, its calendar was full, with training for beginners up to veteran employees seeking to upskill.
“The teaching and coaching offered is a mix of internal and external training, all aimed at equipping our people with the kind of competencies they can use every day, in areas such as credit control, warehousing and customer engagement.”
“Not just to enhance their own skills, but to improve the customer experience. The skills cut across and keep standards high in all areas of the business and also keep us up to date with developments in products and systems.”
“Whilst its currently not practical to bring our people together in the Academy, it doesn’t mean the learning stops, the Group has continued with its mantra of being ‘serious about learning’, by utilising Zoom and Microsoft Teams to bring the learning on site to each of its seventeen sites”.
The Group also actively avails of the bespoke courses offered by Hardware Association Ireland, and the response back from those that have attended has been extremely positive.
As one of the founding members of Allied Merchants Buying Association, www.alliedmerchants.ie, HPC were able to draw upon expert support, such as that of Ivan Colleran, Allied Group’s Purchasing Manager. No better source of guidance in ensuring the very best ranges and brands were available in the Plumb Centre and that levels of stock and quantities matched anticipated demand.
“As the saying goes, when you’re buying, you’re selling. Having the confidence that we have the full backing of theAllied Group and can tap into their buying power to be more competitive, gives great confidence to our sales team”, says Derek Casey, HPC Group Development Manager for Plumbing and Heating.
At a click
Covid-19 has pushed HPC to accelerate innovation, to ensure continuity of first-class service even in a pandemic. The Naas store will be the first branch to roll out a Click and Collect facility. This convenient, safe way to shop will be available in the next few weeks.
Click and Collect marks a further expansion of the Group’s online platform www.tjomahony.ie, launched in April 2020.
Click and Collect is the second of a three-phase rollout; the final stage being a trade specific platform, allowing all trade customers to administer their account, review pricing and access invoices and statements.
What does the future hold?
“Earlier in the year the Group acquired Deeside Supplies in Ardee, Co. Louth, the Ardee Branch was a strategic move to bring together our store in Navan and Kilshane Cross, the Group has a number of customers operating in the region and having Ardee will aid us in improving the service we can offer to those customers”.
Since acquiring the business, the store has undergone a complete makeover and the branch is re-branded and now operating as TJ O’Mahony’s Ardee.
“Like so many others we are busy trying to forecast what the future or at least 2021 holds. In contrast with this time last year, we are now very familiar with how to do business in Covid times, and my own view is that the domestic spend will continue to focus on home and garden improvements.
Trying to determine what the impact of a no deal Brexit will be is more difficult, but we’re a resilient industry, we have come through difficult times before and we will come through these times as well”.