By Steve Bohling October 14, 2019 Industry news

What were the key takeouts from PlaceMakers’ 2019 Conference, Trade Expo and Awards in Rotorua?

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PlaceMakers took its annual conference, trade show and awards out of town and into the regions for the first time this year over Tuesday-Wednesday, 13-14 August.

The location, Rotorua’s Energy Events Centre (just behind the iconic Rotorua Museum and Government Gardens, out towards Sulphur Point), recognised PlaceMakers’ latest facility in nearby Rotoma, as well as enabling benefits for the local community with good deeds and hard work, thanks to the PlaceMakers Foundation.

Led off by conference MC, PlaceMakers Timaru/Twizel’s Brendan Leary (a 2019 Retailer of the Year Finalist!), Day One of the event saw Fletcher Building CEO, Ross Taylor address the bigger picture and remind the blue shirted attendees just how far the company has come in the last 12 months.

With the theme of “Unlimited potential”, for Distribution CE, Bruce McEwen, conference 2019 was about: “How we should be thinking, acting and owning the changes we need to make to realise our full potential; evolving and shaping PlaceMakers to be the Undisputed Market Leader.”

Backing up from last year’s theme of “Boldly shaping the Future – PlaceMakers to 2020”, Bruce would look a further five years out and underscore the obvious, that the current super-competitive market isn’t going to become any less competitive any time soon which means that PlaceMakers “must keep pushing ourselves and each other, to build the PlaceMakers of the future”.

Tuesday afternoon was pretty much devoted to the well-attended and bigger than ever Trade Expo (65+ exhibitors – see pages 22-25 for the detail), alongside specific focused breakout sessions on cladding, doors & door hardware and landscaping.

Anecdotally, feedback from both trade show visitors and from the supply side was positive. And, with several interesting recent additions to the PlaceMakers supply chain, the response was that PlaceMakers is simply good to deal with.

“PlaceMakers supply partners play a vital part in our conference each year,” says Ruth Brash, GM Merchandise.

“The PlaceMakers team value the opportunity to connect with these business one on one, have new products demonstrated, provide feedback and build on our existing relationships.”

The first of this year’s “Mind Expander” keynote sessions featured Anthony Mitchell, Fletcher Distribution Head of EHS, who talked to “Safety Culture”.

There was different “culture” on display later that evening thanks to a “Kiwiana” theme at the welcome event at Skyline Rotorua involving much inventive fancy dress – and much camaraderie, as has become traditional for the normally blue-shirted attendees.



Brendan Leary opened Day Two leading straight into closed sessions around people, digital, the new Transportation Management System and trade practices.

After lunch the second “Mind Expander” was Andy Lark (https://thedailylark.com/), whose session was entitled “change or die”.

Armed with more fascinating business anecdotes than you could shake a stick at, Andy talked to customer experience, citing the process he’d been involved in at Commonwealth Bank of Australia which had been central to the bank’s turnaround, not only in how it was perceived but also directly enhancing its bottom line.

After this, Bruce McEwen and GM Merch, Ruth Brash, led a supplier update during which they shared some insights into what was afoot for the next year, as well as a little beyond.

We covered off some of these with Bruce in the last issue but it’s also worthwhile to highlight some of them again.

  • More emphasis on core range, in-store and in promotions.
  • PlaceMakers aims to be available 24-7, whenever and whatever the customer’s needs.
  • This applies to site deliveries through the Transportation Management System as much as enabling ordering anytime, anywhere.
  • Much of this will be enabled in a paperless manner, online but also through apps.

2019’s concluding “Mind Expander”, Lance Burdett (www.warninternational.com), was about positive thinking; “the only person who can help you is you” said the former crisis negotiator who’s worked with elite international tactical units across the police, the military, emergency services, prisons and the FBI.

Lance now works to increase one’s personal mental and physical resilience and combat and counter the many daily challenges we all face including, notably, depression and to help, he armed us with some simple, useful (and above all memorable) mechanisms to take home with us.



Later that evening, Urzila Carlson MC’d the 2019 Gala Awards Dinner, keeping things moving right along in her usual, robust and highly engaging manner.

Key winners included PlaceMakers Takanini, 2019’s Branch of the Year, which has just delivered a “breakthrough year”, delivering exceptional sales growth and one of the blue sheds’ “biggest EBIT turnaround stories of the year” to boot.

Just three years ago this branch was just “bare land, a plan on a page with big aspirations”!

Another highlight of the evening was the ovation recognising 2019’s Memorial Award recipient, John McGill (PlaceMakers Thames), of whom Bruce McEwen said: “Our conference theme this year is centred around ‘PlaceMakers Unlimited Potential’. It’s people like [John] who have a passion for what’s possible … thinking, acting and owning the changes needed to realise our full potential.

“His legacy goes beyond what he’s achieved, epitomised by being widely recognised as always one of the first people in the business to put his hand up to help, no matter what or where the issue is.

“This award recognises an outstanding individual … and this guy’s love of the business, love of his customers and willingness to help anyone epitomises many of the things that are great about PlaceMakers.” 

Who were PlaceMakers’ 2019 top achievers?

Other high achievers included Takanini’s Darren Pitman as Trade Account Manager of the Year: “With a huge passion for the industry [Darren] challenges himself to expand on his product knowledge to provide the walk the talk and grow his sales with his customers.”

Jane Smith (PlaceMakers Dunedin) took out the Customer Service Award for “epitomising what going above and beyond for our customers is all about” and for “thinking outside the box” resulting in branch sales in her department growing 145%.

Kirsty Moffat (PlaceMakers HR Recruitment) was the 2019 Innovation Award recipient. “The recruitment and brand awareness work Kirsty has delivered to date has completely transformed our approach to engaging with potential candidates.”

Supplier Award – Large: MiTek
Finalists: CHH Woodproducts; Red Stag; Winstone Wallboards
Supplier Award – Medium: Sika
Finalists: Bremick; Niagara
Supplier Award – Small: PSP
Finalists: Allegion; Bostik

Customer Service Award:
Jane Smith (PlaceMakers Dunedin)
Stacey Langley & Mark Armstrong (PlaceMakers Hornby)
Roger McRae (PlaceMakers Mt Wellington)

Innovation Award:
Recruitment Drive – Kirsty Moffat (HR Recruitment)
Canterbury SPCA Fundraiser – Hamish Mackay (PlaceMakers Hornby)
PlaceMakers “Gift” – Ben Tarrant (PlaceMakers Nelson)

$2 million Club:
Chen Li (PlaceMakers New Lynn)
Alan Howe (PlaceMakers Riccarton)
Roger McRae (PlaceMakers Queenstown)
Rodney O’Neill (PlaceMakers Ashburton)

Trade Account Manager of the Year:
Darren Pitman (PlaceMakers Takanini)
Sai Ma (Mt Wellington)
Rob Scholtens (Cook St)
Anson Tan (Mt Wellington)

Branch of the Year:
PlaceMakers Takanini – Tony McDrury
PlaceMakers Cook St – Dale King
PlaceMakers Hornby – Blair Page
PlaceMakers Kaiwharawhara – Paul Boden
PlaceMakers Queenstown – Matt Cleaver
PlaceMakers Whangarei – Robert Ward

2019 Memorial Award:
John McGill (PlaceMakers Thames)

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