Twenty-five years on and one of the enduring things about ITM is that the Members are local owner-operators with skin in the game and while still independent, remain united on those things that really matter.
Above left, the ITM team in the early days. Right: Bryan Frampton, ITM’s Tawa Store Manager, was at Cooperative Business NZ’s 2016 Annual Awards Dinner to receive an Enduring Service Award in recognition of ITM’s outstanding contribution to the co-operative business sector.
In 1991, recalls ITM founder and first CEO, Kevin Marevich, it was difficult for even well-established independents to get a competitive deal. Kevin and a handful of like-minded independents set out to change that status quo and create a level playing field, not just for new and developing stores but, in a reasonably short time, to help other well-established independents get on an even footing.
Store numbers grew steadily, even though ITM back then was still to some extent working under the radar.
“We took the industry by stealth,” says Kevin with a grin. “The competition didn’t take us too seriously until it was too late and by then the horse had bolted”.
Twenty-five years later, Kevin remains proud of ITM and its achievements.
“I think it is a wonderful organisation. I have always been a strong supporter of independent business and the power of independents as a co-operative, and I still am.”
Gordon Buswell became the CEO for the second phase of the plan. This involved building a brand that was exciting (thanks to the ITM Fishing Show, the ITM Cup and the ITM 500), had personality (thanks to the faces of the members in every TV commercial), credibility and integrity in the eyes of customers, members and suppliers.
A turning point came in 2008 when Carters and PlaceMakers purchased 11 ITM member stores, leaving a sizable hole in ITM’s turnover. By then armed with a very compelling value proposition, Buswell and ITM’s reaction was to sign up the most successful unaligned independents (many of which make up ITM’s backbone today) and in the process rebuild the turnover by much more than it had lost.
Says Gordon Buswell today: “Some thought that ITM might not survive after that attack but in fact it gave us the opportunity to bring in new blood, more stores and build more turnover, I think it was a signal to the industry that ITM was well and truly here to stay.”
In line with the very foundations of a co-operative, ITM members play an important role in the decision-making process and Gordon says developing a system of face-to-face meetings with co-op members regarding major decisions was a highlight throughout this period.
“Not only were better decisions made, but the engagement and commitment of the membership made implementation much more successful.”
The co-operative ethos developed further with the adoption of a Charter of Commitment, a “huge achievement” in setting standards in branding and marketing, according to Gordon who says:
“We were no longer independent, the guys were interdependent – they relied on one another for their brand pride and the group’s integrity of performance.”
ITM FAST FACTS
Current CEO Scott Duncan’s role is about consolidating on ITM’s achievements.
“We’re setting ourselves to be a multi-generational, long term success in the building industry and the trade in particular,” he says.
Scott intends to keep it simple and focus on three things:
- to continue to sell well – have great relationships with the trade and to build on that through the value that ITM provides;
- to continue to buy well – build strong, loyal relationships with preferred suppliers; and
- to focus in on how ITM operates as a network. This involves helping ITM store owners operate to the best of their abilities so they are getting the benefits of scale when it comes to running their operations as well as they possibly can, for the benefit of their customers and themselves.
Looking to the co-op’s future, Scott says “as a group we will be continually evolving and changing so that we are better tomorrow than we are today. Everyone knows that you need to change to deal with the market we’re in and to deal with the opportunities in front of us.
“As with all things, however, it’s more about the pace of change than the need for change – not too fast, not too slow.”
Then and now, the Bashers ITM store in Amberley changes with the times.
Flagship sponsorships include the ITM Fishing Show with Matt Watson (plus a few All Blacks) and the ITM Supersprint which will be held this November at the iconic Pukekohe racetrack.