As the Rick Hart Group celebrates its 30 Year Anniversary, Rick himself prepares to take the business through another exciting phase in the Group’s history.
Rick Hart has become a prominent figure in Perth, heading up the retail icon Rick Hart and also Chairman of the Fremantle Football Club. But Rick’s business empire did not come easily, there was considerable hard work to get started and in later years to ensure the business held its own ground against the increasingly competitive electrical appliance industry.
Rick Hart has given us an opportunity to gain an insight into the man behind the name, and what has transpired over the last 30 years to bring his business to be the successful brand it is today.
Managing Director, Rick Hart, reflects over the last 30 years and credits his committed employees, and equally a very loyal customer base, for the success the Rick Hart brand is today.
The Rick Hart chain has continued to grow its business and consolidate its position as one of Western Australia’s major retailers. With the recent merger between Rick Hart and eastern states electrical retailer Clive Peeters, the Group enters another exciting phase and period of further growth. Rick Hart says “the merger with Clive Peeters provides many benefits to our customers through access to more suppliers and an expanded product range. The merger also offers improved buying power, modern information systems and financial support that will aid future development”.
Background: Rick Hart was born and bred in Merredin, Western Australia. After finishing his Leaving Exams, he moved to Perth and worked at the Dalgety Trading Co for some time. It was October 1975, when Rick and a business partner obtained a tip that an insurance company was holding a container of about 100 fridges that had been damaged on board a ship. They put in a tender to buy the fridges, advertised them in the classifieds and sold them from the front of a panel beating shop in Osborne Park. All sold fairly quickly. That was a catalyst for things to come.
Advertising: In 1975, colour televisions had recently entered the market, making electrical stores even more popular. The business began to do well which Rick credits to advertising. “We had to take risks and advertise because Osborne Park was not a retail area back then” says Rick. In 1980, Rick secured warehouse premises in Osborne Park opening his second ‘Rick Hart Discounts’ store and introduced the ‘warehouse direct’ concept. At this point he started to specialise in ceiling fans. “There was a definite market, as we got a hold of some $29 fans and couldn’t keep up with the demand.
Kitchen: From there, we ended up with 5 ‘Fans and Lighting’ stores and the beginning of the ‘Rick Hart Fan Club’.” Meanwhile, cooking appliances and refrigeration had been introduced into the business. While other retailers were focusing on brown goods, Rick decided to make kitchen appliances his niche market. Today, Rick Hart Superstores boasts Western Australia’s largest kitchen appliance displays, providing consumers with the biggest and best range of kitchen appliances, supported by a highly trained sales team. The cooking niche took an exciting turn in 1987 with Rick Hart introducing European cooking appliances into the Western Australian market. “We thought stainless steel was a fad” Rick chuckles “18 years later, it is more popular than ever!” In the year 2000, Rick Hart made a prominent entry into the audio visual market with the opening of Rick Hart Hi-Fi Corporation in Belmont. Amazingly, the launch attracted an estimated 15,000 people. “There was a queue about 500m long outside, customers were admitted in groups of 50 and inside the store, 50m lines were observed at the sales counter. We knew it would be big but this was incredible!”
The Rick Hart chain has continued to grow its business and consolidate its position as one of Western Australia’s major retailers.
Discounts: Rick Hart Discounts has grown from strength to strength and today employs around 250 people. The Group consists of 10 company owned Rick Hart stores plus 3 franchises, 4 seconds outlets which trade as Rick Hart Seconds. A lot of the success is invested back into the community with the Rick Hart Group sponsoring several senior and junior sporting associations. Rick Hart is a strong supporter of grassroots football, and the company is also a major sponsor of the West Australian Umpires Association. “Even the men in white need some support, although the old days of white uniforms seem to have gone” says Rick.
Make A Wish: Close to Rick’s heart, is the Group’s key sponsorship of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which helps terminally ill children achieve their special wishes. “We have been involved with Make-A-Wish for 8 years now. In that time, we have raised over $300,000 and made many wishes come true. Nothing beats the feeling of seeing a child’s eyes and heart light up when being told that their wish has been granted” says Rick. “Our staff also supports the charity through payroll deductions which is a sizeable contribution”.
Football: So does the man who has been busy building an empire over the last 30 years have time for anything else? “I have been a Dockers supporter from day one. When the opportunity arose in 2001 to accept the role of President of the Fremantle Football Club, I saw a great challenge with the potential of the Club, and accepted the role with pride” says Rick.
“Having been involved in the Club has been a great experience for me, and yes there have been some highs and lows, but the challenge has been rewarding. There is an incredible amount of talent and I am confident, we will be a force to be reckoned with in the years ahead”.