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Not quite Masters of the (hardware) universe

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), October 2014 – September 2015 (n=15,668).

Following months of media speculation about the future of beleaguered Woolworths-owned hardware chain, Masters Home Improvement, the news came yesterday that Woolworths is finally admitting defeat and winding up its short-lived venture into hardware retail.  Yet as the latest findings from Roy Morgan research reveal, the number of Australians 14+ shopping at Masters in an average four-week period was on the rise, fast approaching the customer volume of its nearest rival, Mitre 10.

In the 12 months to September 2012, back in the chain’s early days, Masters was attracting some 461,000 customers (or 2.5% of the population) in an average four weeks, in stark contrast to the 2 million shoppers (10.6%) visiting Mitre 10 in the same period. As of September 2015, however, over 1.5 million customers (7.9%) were passing through Masters’ check-outs in any given four weeks, compared with 1.8 million (9.1%) at Mitre 10.

While Masters customers are generally more likely to live in capital-cities than in regional areas, the chain’s popularity in Queensland defies this trend. Regardless of whether they are based in Brisbane or country areas, Queenslanders are 43% more likely than the average Aussie to shop at Masters. Other Masters ‘hot spots’ include Melbourne, whose residents are 41% more likely to shop there; and Perth (30% more likely).

Masters Home Improvement: a state-by-state/city-country breakdown


Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), October 2014 – September 2015 (n=15,668).

However, despite attracting more customers than Mitre 10, Home Hardware or True Value Hardware in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia, it seems that Masters could not prevent its present fate by taking advantage of its popularity in these states at least.

Also unfortunate is the fact that the hardware chain failed to capitalise on its parent company’s customer-base. Roy Morgan data indicates that Australians who mainly shop at Woolworths (as opposed to other supermarkets) are only 24% more likely than the average Australian to also shop at Masters: surely an opportunity waiting to happen.

Michele Levine, CEO, Roy Morgan Research, says:

“With its expanding customer base and relatively high popularity (if we remove category killer Bunnings from the equation) in Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia, as well as a potentially profitable relationship with Woolworths shoppers, Masters Home Improvement had the scope to do far better than it has done.

“Of course, it didn’t help Masters’ cause that Bunnings holds such an mammoth dollar market share of the Hardware, Home DIY, Plant and Garden Accessories sector (63.9% vs just 8.6% held by Masters). Even though the average customer spend per four weeks was slightly higher for Masters ($166) than it was for Bunnings ($154), the sheer enormity of Bunnings’ customer-base ensured that Masters never came close to challenging its rival’s market supremacy.

 “But that doesn’t mean Masters was destined for failure. Viewing the chain’s customers through the lens of Helix Personas, Roy Morgan Research’s comprehensive consumer segmentation/data integration tool, we see that Australians from the Today’s Families, Aussie Achievers and Getting By communities are more likely to shop at Masters than at any other hardware chain (including Bunnings) in an average four weeks. Between them, these three communities comprise almost one-third of the population: that’s a whole lot of customers waiting to be wooed!

“What’s more, people belonging to Today’s Families and Aussie Achievers tend to earn above-average incomes and take great pride in their homes. By directing its efforts towards these lucrative consumers — identifying where they are most likely to live, and tailoring its marketing to reach them via the media they are most likely to consume, for starters —Masters (and Woolworths) could have been a serious contender...”

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About Roy Morgan

Roy Morgan is the largest independent Australian research company, with offices throughout Australia, as well as in Indonesia, the United States and the United Kingdom. A full service research organisation specialising in omnibus and syndicated data, Roy Morgan has over 70 years’ experience in collecting objective, independent information on consumers.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size

Percentage Estimate


25% or 75%

10% or 90%

5% or 95%