Bowens is a leading building materials and timber supplier with an impressive 126-year history and has been a client of Honan for 14 years. This fourth-generation family-owned business proudly supplied building materials for the 2006 Commonwealth Games Village, and now has 16 stores across Victoria, complete with click & collect and delivery capabilities. We checked in with Andy Bowen, Chief Investment Officer, to find out more about the business and its journey to date.
THE CRUX OF YOUR BUSINESS?
To be the leading supplier of building materials to trade in Australia.
YOUR PARTNERSHIP WITH HONAN COMMENCED BACK IN 2007! TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT WHAT BOWENS LIKE THEN VS WHERE YOU ARE NOW.
Since 2007, we have added another seven stores (Shepparton, Phillip Island, Epping, Port Melbourne, Brunswick, Pakenham, and Belmont). In 2011, we purchased Timbertruss and created the largest and most sophisticated building prefabrication company in Australia. Timbertruss (a division of Bowens) expanded into Queensland in 2015 and we consolidated our Victorian operations in 2018 at a new, state-of-the-art, world-class 32-acre facility in Corio.
REFLECTING ON THE LAST FIVE YEARS, HIT US WITH YOUR TOP 5 MILESTONES.
- Launching eCommerce in December 2020 (featuring over 20,000 products)
- Building Timbertruss manufacturing facility in Corio (consolidating our Victorian operations) and expanding into the Queensland market
- The creation of Showroom by Bowens – a new architectural space in Port Melbourne designed by award-winning architects Latitude for the selection of various finishes including timber flooring, doors, door hardware, timber linings, moldings, and acoustics.
- Opening new stores in Pakenham, Brunswick, and Belmont, and rebuilding Bowens Croydon.
- Upgrading to a new 15,000sqm Distribution Centre in Dandenong South, and launching “Barry”, a new live order tracking delivery technology for our customers.
WHAT IS THE TOP TREND IMPACTING YOUR BUSINESS RIGHT NOW?
Supply shortages due to:
- The high volume of demand from Australia’s detached housing and renovation markets, and restrictions in world shipping.
- The 2020 bushfire season, which reduced domestic supply.
- Global manufacturing slowdowns because of the pandemic means there is an increasing worldwide demand for wood fibre and a +400% growth in U.S. lumber prices.
AT HONAN, WE’RE ALWAYS INSPIRED BY BUSINESSES THAT ARE BRAVE ENOUGH TO DO THINGS A LITTLE DIFFERENTLY. TELL US SOMETHING UNEXPECTED OR TRULY DIFFERENT ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS.
The technology within our manufacturing at Timbertruss is the first of its kind in the world. We have taken automation to a completely new level in the industry, that will revolutionise the way homes are built in Australia. It is the most sophisticated timber prefabrication facility in the world, and we’re hugely proud to have made this happen right here in Victoria.
INNOVATIVE CULTURES AND A COMMITMENT TO ONGOING EVOLUTION ARE COMMON HALLMARKS OF SOME OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL ORGANISATIONS TODAY. WHAT DOES INNOVATION LOOK LIKE / MEAN TO YOUR BUSINESS?
We discuss innovation and implement strategy around innovation every day; from product innovation to looking at ways to better engage with our younger builders. eCommerce is undeniably the largest innovation project our business has undertaken in 127 years given the complexity of our products, the amount of product, and the challenges we face operationally around transport. It is innovative because bulky supplies in our industry are relatively untapped from an eCommerce perspective, and therefore many of the features around this had to be developed from scratch. We are leading the way.
WHAT ROLE DOES CUSTOMER TRUST PLAY IN BOWENS’ SUCCESS?
From a raw product perspective, we sell a commodity you can buy across the street, so the true value in our business is how we differentiate our service and execute the simple daily tasks – delivering products on time and in full and responding quickly to customers’ needs. If we can’t do the basics well, we’ll lose our customers’ trust. Ultimately, trust means everything to us and plays an enormous role in our success.
AT HONAN, MAINTAINING QUALITY CONNECTIONS WITH OUR PEOPLE, PARTNERS AND THE COMMUNITY SITS AT THE HEART OF WHAT WE DO. WHAT RELATIONSHIPS & CONNECTIONS HAVE BEEN CRITICAL TO YOUR BUSINESS SUCCESS IN RECENT YEARS?
We have 60 account managers on the road meeting with our builder customers every day. It is these relationships, and the connection between our stores and the communities they serve that are paramount to Bowens’ growth.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT FOR THE BUSINESS OVER THE NEXT 6-12 MONTHS?
I’m most excited about the scope of work we still have to release with eCommerce, and the growth of this department in our business. The potential is enormous. We are launching our trade account login in June and will begin delivering products Australia-wide shortly thereafter. We will also commence building our new store in Cheltenham, as well as a complete rebuild of our Hastings store. Both sites will commence work in FY22.
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