John & Doug Sturrock have been running Sturrock’s of Sydney for almost 50 years. Being at the inconic Rushcutters Bay in the heart of Sydney’s ocean racing fleet is certainly an advantage however the chandlery is not immune to changes in the industry…
– John you started the business in 1979 – when and where did you see a need for a traditional chandlery in the centre of Sydney ?
In1979 I became fed up with corporate life as it was in the 70’s so when my brother David heard of a new marina and chandlery site becoming available, we thought “why not, we know boats”. Well we soon found out how much we had to learn and are still learning.
– Back in the 70s and 80s, what were the main challenges coming with running a chandlery ?
In the 70’s the chandlery businesses in Australia were a bit like plumbing workshops which sold hardware and paint. This gave us the opportunity to do something different. We introduced clothing lines, put carpet on the floor and set up a different retail layout. The model clearly worked.
Running a chandlery business is essentially the same as any other small business in so far as cash flow can be tight in
the beginning but with diligent supervision of inventory and purchasing it can work. In the marine business there are literally millions of items available and the problem is many of the hardware lines have a very low number of stock turns yet customers expect those items to be in stock.
In the 90’s we had “the recession we had to have” and this changed the customer base radically. Big spenders suddenly disappeared. In the early 80’s and 90’s we had taken over some boatyard businesses, with teams of various trades people on site. This imposed great strains on the cash flow but it improved our knowledge base hugely. With some customers we sold the product, installed it and then sailed on the boat.
By the latter part of the 90’s things were hotting up with the approaching Sydney Olympics. We were asked to be the official Olympic supplier, not only for the games but for the preceding test event years. At this time we decided to focus on the core chandlery business and this helped consolidate the Rushcutters Bay business.
– In the early 2000s many chandleries shut their doors, yet you survived, why do you think you did ?
Overtime we have seen the demise of many in the same field. Most have indulged in lots of price cutting. This is ok providing there is sufficient profit. We always try to be competitive on price, however, if a business is selling something at a ridiculous price we have no hesitation in suggesting that the customer goes there. After that they will mostly call us first.
– There is a plethora of information on the internet nowadays, how do you keep up with product knowledge & development ?
We work hard on our knowledge bank and the customers generally take advantage of this, however, it is the nature of this type of business. Many of our customers are like old friends and they appreciate the service and knowledge we offer.
– Have your expectations and relationships with your suppliers evolved in the past 10 -15 years, and how do they see them in 10 year’s time ?
In the same way our relationships with suppliers are extremely important. Many we have known for a long time. We rely on suppliers to keep us up to date with products and their aplications and assist with controlling their brands inventory levels.