A mainstay of the cooperation is centralized purchasing for all members. Altogether, 3e has over 900 contracts with suppliers and brands across the globe. At its central warehouse in Wels, 3e stocks around 18,000 different items.
The product portfolio is huge and ranges from tools and machinery to ironware, fittings and fastening products through to work safety and clothing goods, paints, varnishes and garden furniture. Electrical and installation products, workshop equipment, sanitation products, ovens and stoves, and household and kitchen appliances complete the range.
Currently, tools, machines and garden equipment are the most important product groups. Depending on the respective locations, other product lines are added to the portfolio.
“Thanks to our long-term agreements and our own imports, we have access to the cheapest prices available,” says CEO Markus Dulle. “We have also started to develop our own brands. To make purchasing easy for our members, all purchase activities are centralized on an internal platform which is always up-to-date. In 2015, we introduced a click-and-collect system which enables our members to buy with just one click.”
Secondly, 3e offers a comprehensive service spectrum, including marketing and PR, interior planning and decoration, and sales and distribution concepts. Also, the association proposes additional services and advises on potential yields.
Last but not least, 3e has its own repair shops and offers assembly services, for example for ovens, pools or mowing robots. “Our members benefit from a range of advantages,” explains Mr. Dulle. “First of all, they have access to better prices. Also, they save marketing costs and costs for the development of sales concepts. Thanks to our size and our experience in the market, we draw on profound know-how. We always adapt the product range and services we offer to the respective location of the shop. This way, our members can keep their individuality. At the same time, they benefit from the power of a whole group.”
All the stationary shops excel in top customer service. As soon as the customers enter the shop, they are offered advice. The shops also offer services such as repair, storage and assembly.
The product portfolio is wast and leaves no wish unanswered. Over the years, 3e has become an international player. Today, the company has consultants in Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Hungary.
“The market in Austria does not offer much growth potential anymore,” says Mr. Dulle. “Abroad, we cooperate with sales consultants who explain our advantages to potential members. We see promising growth prospects in Eastern Europe. Only two weeks ago, we opened a new shop in Bosnia. Slovakia is developing well, and we are analyzing our potential in Serbia. Currently, we achieve around 25% of our total turnover through export activities.”
The company was founded in 1989 when the three hardware cooperations Eisenring Süd, Eisenring Ost and E/D/E joined forces. In 1997, AHS came to life, in cooperation with ÖBAU. 2002 saw the launch of the new franchise system TOOLPARK. It was a milestone in the development of the cooperation when the first five stores went online in 2003.
Only one year later, the LET’S DOIT sales cooperation concept was developed. In 2005, the concept was introduced to Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Montenegro. The latest innovation was the development of the perspective 2015+ in 2013.
Today, the association has 148 members in Austria and another 101 from other countries. Altogether, the members achieve an annual turnover of around 547 million EUR.
“Our sales concepts LET’S DOIT and TOOLPARK meet the spirit of the time,” Mr. Dulle explains the company’s success. “The combination of purchase and marketing is another great asset of 3e. We follow a long-term-oriented business approach. At present, we have three big future issues. The biggest challenge is the digital transformation of our company and the development of a successful omnichannel strategy so that customers can choose between different channels. Of course, the stationary shops will play an important role in the future, too. Therefore, we aim to enhance their service portfolio, for example with a garage for ad-hoc repairs, a garden check or installation services. Last but not least, the qualification of our staff is high on our agenda. In order to distinguish yourself from competitors, you need top people at the shops who are trained and motivated.”