Camberwell Electrics: Onwards and upwards after 65 years

After co-owner retires.

Following the announcement of the retirement of Camberwell Electrics co-owner, Graeme Hawkesford after over 40 years with one of the oldest electrical retailers in Victoria, sole owner, Hans Vanderstadt spoke to Appliance Retailer about the next phase for the business.

“Graeme and I have established Camberwell Electrics over many years as a successful solution retailer, specialising in air-conditioning and appliances. He is an icon within the industry and we share many fond memories. With Graeme’s retirement the main change to the business is to have one clear direction for both staff and suppliers alike, as well as to improve our showroom and displays. It’s onwards and upwards from here,” Vanderstadt told Appliance Retailer.

“Our aim is to be a destination store for customers who are building, renovating and extending. A true one-stop shop for kitchen and laundry appliances, air-conditioning, heating, alfresco appliances, home entertainment, solar PV and hot water, home automation and security, all supported by our in-house installation and service department,” he said.

Challenges and opportunities facing the retail industry

“One of the biggest challenges facing the retail industry today, is that some major suppliers only want to support the larger retailers. Many promise to support us; however they fall short when it comes to the crunch. All we ask from them is to be fair and allow us to achieve the margin we need and deserve, for the service we provide.

“The biggest frustration I have seen over my 35 years in retail is constantly chasing targets and suppliers trying to be number one in either a category or as a supplier in the industry. Turnover is vanity – profit is sanity. The biggest opportunity is to sell to a growing market of discerning buyers who are looking for quality appliances,” he said.

Hans Vanderstadt with wife, Felicity

Amazon on Australian soil

Vanderstadt sees Amazon as a logistics and IT company and expects the retailer to experience some challenges in the Australian market. “We have a far smaller population than America and customers are spread sparsely over our vast continent. The type of products they successfully move are smaller items that can be easily man handled, whereas we see ourselves as a ‘solution retailer’ of products where we offer quality advice, displays, sales and installation,” he said.

“To remain ahead of the game we need to differentiate ourselves from the larger volume ‘box move’ retailers and align ourselves with supportive suppliers who offer middle to top end aspirational products while remaining competitive on commodity items. We need to align with suppliers who honestly support our business with product representation, who help to deliver the fair margin we seek. To ensure we have the best possible sales people to provide quality advice and service to our clients. Our industry is about people, product and profit,” he said.

And the key to a good relationship with suppliers is “to be honest and open with your communication both for the retailer and from the supplier, and to also have the support from supplier senior management”.

“Camberwell Electrics continues to service its many loyal customers, their children and their relatives, who value the friendly, knowledgeable staff who go to great lengths in continuing to provide the best products at the best prices,” he said.

History of Camberwell Electrics

1952: Camberwell Electrics was founded by war veteran, Gus Janson on the corner of Camberwell Road and Glen Iris Road.

1962: Gus moved the business to its current site on the corner of Camberwell and Toorak Roads.

1977: Gus retired and sold the business to five employees, Graeme Hawkesford, John Stent, Ev Johnson, Ron Smith and Murray Cahill.

1978: Murray Cahill moved on and left the other four as equal partners.

1988: John Stent and Ev Johnson retired and two salesmen, David Evans and Hans Vanderstadt bought in as minority partners. By this time Camberwell Electrics was recognised as a leading retailer in all facets of the industry, but particularly air conditioning which remains a prominent area.

1998: David Evans moved to Queensland and Hans Vanderstadt purchased some shares to become equal partner with Graeme Hawkesford and Ron Smith.

2003: Camberwell Electrics was totally destroyed by a fire.

2004: Ron Smith retired and the two remaining partners Graeme Hawkesford and Hans Vanderstadt became equal partners.

2010: Joined the Narta buying group.

2017: Graeme Hawkesford retired and Hans Vanderstadt became owner of Camberwell Electrics.

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